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Photo courtesy of Crystal Wolfe
Photo courtesy of Crystal Wolfe
Crystal Wolfe is continuing to peel back the misconceptions on homelessness with her new book "Our Invisible Neighbors."

One Maspeth resident is looking to get to the root of the city’s growing homelessness crisis, which sees nearly 60,000 people sleeping on the streets each night, and dispel some of the myths surrounding homelessness through her new book “Our Invisible Neighbors.”

Crystal Wolfe, founder of the Catering for the Homeless nonproft organization which connects catering companies and restaurants with organizations that give out their excess food to the homeless and communities in need, wrote her book as a way to tell not only her personal story, but the stories of others who are or have been homeless, and provide input on how to solve the homelessness crisis.

Throughout the book, Wolfe delves into the causes of homelessness, including not only the well-known factors of drug abuse and mental illness, but also some causes that many people might not consider such as domestic abuse, natural disasters, skyrocketing medical bills and more.

Wolfe spoke to over 100 organizations and cites nearly 200 sources in “Our Invisible Neighbors,” including Community Board 5 (CB 5) and their Homeless Subcommittee, which helped her come up with some of the book’s solutions to the homelessness problem.

She also took a look at the Housing First program which has been used in many countries around the world, including the U.S., to stem the tide of homelessness.

Wolfe took things to a more local level in speaking with Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and his Home Stability Support (HSS) program as a way of preventing people from being homeless before they are on the streets.

“I want to emphasize that Andrew Hevesi’s Home Stability Support (HSS) is an even better plan than Housing First — it is the first comprehensive plan to prevent homelessness and my interview with him on his plan is in Chapter 23 of this book,” Wolfe said. “HSS will be voted in January of 2018, and the community and government support is crucial for him. His plan will prevent homelessness for NYC and throughout the state of N.Y., and even if New York does not vote in favor of his plan next year, it could be used as Housing First was used, to end homelessness in other states and countries.”

“Our Invisible Neighbors” aims to help local residents better understand homeless, therefore allowing them to better assist the homeless, Wolfe contends, by debunking many of the myths surrounding homelessness, like the fact that 70 percent of the homeless in NYC are families, and nearly 44 percent of the homeless across America actually have jobs.

“I also think this book would help anyone who reads it to understand homelessness better through the personal accounts of the book, from those who have been or currently are homeless, and the chapters on the myths and causes of homelessness,” Wolfe said. “I think one of those myths it is important for the local neighborhood to understand is that having homeless housed actually improves property taxes. I’ve heard examples for this even in NYC, but I used an example of the neighboring city of Philadelphia.”

However, the best way for people to help the homeless, Wolfe said, is to actually get involved.

Besides her Catering for the Homeless operation, Wolfe is preparing to host a toiletry drive for the homeless with St. Sebastian’s Church in Woodside. The drive will be held on Nov. 10 and 11, with donations being accepted at St. Sebastian’s Academy, located at 39-76 58th St., from 7 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 10, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 11.

“We need donations, volunteers to assort the items, and people who can drive the donations to the homeless shelters and church pantries,” Wolfe added.

“Our Invisible Neighbors” is now available at major and independent bookstores, and online on Amazon and Kindle, online bookstores.


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