Maspeth has been fighting a war for months against a proposed homeless shelter at a local hotel, but one resident is looking to do something to help the homeless residents of the community.
Crystal Wolfe, founder of the nonprofit organization Catering for the Homeless, is one of the few people in the area who actually supports the hotel on 55th Road being converted into a homeless shelter. She believes that in order to help the nearly 60,000 homeless people of New York City, communities need to come together to support them.
“I live pretty close to the Holiday Inn Express and was outraged over the community’s reaction to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s housing people in the hotel,” Wolfe said. “I agree that sheltering people in hotels is not an ideal or permanent solution but surely it is better than them being on the streets, even if they don’t have a kitchen in their hotel room.”
Wolfe says she has been a community activist for most of her life, volunteering with various parks organizations that help plant trees, and clean up parks, beaches and other park land, as well as being a part of homeless ministries across the country. When she heard of the hotel being converted into a homeless shelter, she wanted to help support the people who would be living there.
“After the community of Maspeth’s reaction against bringing a homeless shelter here or housing them in the hotel, I felt like the community needed to hear and know that there were people who live here who felt differently,” Wolfe said. “I consider it an honor and great privilege to have the homeless sheltered in my community and to be a part of helping them in any way. I support anybody and any organization who wants to help them.”
Besides having a big heart and wanting to help the less fortunate, Wolfe understands the plight of the city’s homeless because she knows how difficult it is to come to New York and try to make a living, especially with skyrocketing rents.
“I moved to NYC a little over two years ago to pursue my goals and dreams and so I know firsthand how hard it is to survive here,” Wolfe said. “Most of the time I’ve lived here, I’ve had multiple jobs at a time trying to get by on my own. The rents are so ridiculously high in NYC [that] most everyone I know is struggling financially and it would be easier than some people think to end up on the streets. Many here are one paycheck away from homelessness.”
Wolfe has experience in the catering business and has witnessed massive amounts of food being thrown away after catered events. When she asked her boss why the food wasn’t donated to the homeless, he told her of a law that was passed which restricted catering companies from donating the leftover food directly to the homeless.
This is where the idea for Catering for the Homeless came about.
Wolfe created the Catering for the Homeless organization and website as a way for catering companies to reach out to food pantries, nonprofits, church organizations and others to let them know when they will be holding catered events, and when and where the leftover food could be picked up for donations, and vice versa.
“There are literally thousands of catering companies in NYC alone with events being held every day of the year where food is being thrown out,” Wolfe said on her website. “Through this website, catering companies can log in and enter their event dates and when the excess food will be available for pickup. Shelters, ministries, food pantries or any homeless organization can log into this website to enter their information and pick up the food and distribute it as middle men.”
Although things are just getting started for Wolfe and Catering for the Homeless, she is hopeful that catering companies and nonprofit organizations will come together to help feed the growing homeless population across the city.