Ridgewood church aims to open ‘emergency bed’ program for local homeless seniors

Ridgewood Presbyterian Church
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Homeless people will soon be welcomed at a Ridgewood church that is working with a nonprofit group to provide them with “emergency beds” for overnights, according to several sources.

The Ridgewood Presbyterian Church, located at 59-14 70th Ave., is looking to create an “Emergency Bed Stabilization Program” that will provide local men and women — with a focus on seniors — with no place to live, or who are living in dangerous conditions a place to stay while they are given services to get them back into a safe and stable living situation.

“It’s for Queens people. Most likely local Ridgewood people, and if we have extra room we can take in people from other parts of Queens,” said Reverend Victoria L. Moss, pastor of Ridgewood Presbyterian Church. “It will be for men and women. They have to be vetted and undergo a background check. There will be no one with substance abuse, violent history or alcohol problems.”

According to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), the Ridgewood Presbyterian Church reached out to the agency to find out how they can help a small number of their congregation that does not have a place to live. DHS put them in touch with Breaking Ground, a nonprofit service which provides safe, secure housing with on-site support services, as well as a street outreach program, to help move clients toward permanent housing.

“These beds would enable Breaking Ground to continue bringing this borough’s homeless neighbors in off the streets and working with them as they get back on their feet. We always welcome houses of worship that want to do more,” said Isaac McGinn, the DHS press secretary.

Through a pending agreement with Breaking Ground, the church aims to house a maximum of 15 people in two rooms owned by the church, where a shower will be installed. The people would be allowed to stay overnight from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. the next morning. The church would provide them with meals in the evening and morning.

There will be at least two security guards on site for the 12 hours (two six-hour shifts) as well as four case workers each shift, Moss said.

Ridgewood Presbyterian, which is charged with staffing the program, says it will hire local residents for many of the staff positions.

According to Christopher Winter, the lead consultant on the project with Ridgewood Presbyterian Church, no one will be bussed into Ridgewood to use the services. It is for the local residents who are having housing issues.

“This is not a shelter, this is not a busing in situation, this is not even close to a drop in center,” Winter told QNS in a phone interview. “We are putting this team of people together to see how to best serve the people of Ridgewood and Queens who are coming already to the church and raising their concerns and needs. The goal is to transition them where they can go through management to help them secure full housing.”

The “Emergency Bed Stabilization Program” will not interfere or operate during the times that the part-time preschool program is in session at the church, Moss noted.

The Ridgewood Presbyterian Church and All Saints Old Catholic Community, which uses the same building, already provide services to the homeless and underserved individuals of the community.

“We do work with Breaking Ground, DHS, and the police to make sure the homeless get the things they need,” said Father Mike Lopez, pastor of All Saints. “But as far as I know, there is no shelter going there. We do work a lot with the homeless. We have community meals on Monday nights. One Saturday a month we hold a community meal and provide other services.”

Ridgewood Presbyterian Church is hoping the program will be finalized and running by the end of the summer.