While mourning homeless Ridgewood man’s death, ministers call on city to address ongoing crisis

Photo: Dean Moses

Arkadiusz Jasinski, affectionately known by the community as Arek, was remembered at a Ridgewood vigil as a respectful, down-on-his-luck construction trade worker by the ministry that often serviced him.

The Nov. 23 vigil at Forest and Putnam Avenues was attended by members of the 104th Precinct, the 104th Precinct Civilian Observation Patrol and All Saints Catholic Church leaders who recognized the struggle of the homeless Polish immigrant who froze to death during the Nov. 15 snowstorm.

“We really feel that there’s a crisis right now, in Ridgewood particularly, not only with the visible street homeless but with the seniors who are being displaced. Gentrification is causing a lot of people to not be able to afford apartments anymore,” Father Mike Lopez  of All Saints said. “One of the interesting issues with men like Arek and the other Polish and eastern European men who are homeless in Ridgewood is that they at one point lived there. They have a desire to stay in the community that they know.”

Jasinski moved to New York about 20 years ago to work in construction, according to Lopez, and six years ago he hit some bumps in the road and ended up on the street.

A single man with no children, Jasinski had always planned to return to Poland where his mother lives and All Saints had worked with the consulate to get him a Polish passport to facilitate his plans.

“He was hoping to eventually make his way back to Poland,” Lopez said. “he was a rather interesting character. He often would tell people he was a Polish guy and that he didn’t speak a lot of English. He didn’t really cause much trouble … He was a very respectful guy.”

Photo: Dean Moses
Photo: Dean Moses

All Saints and nearby St. Matthias Roman Catholic Church, both of which work together to deliver services to homeless in the community, have provided showers, meals and clothing to Jasinski for at least three years.

Jasinski was also hospitalized a number of times and the two churches had helped him with his healthcare needs, according to Lopez.

“We felt that it was importantly first and foremost to memorialized Arek, and secondly to bring awareness to our community that there’s a crisis and we need to be more proactive to helping to find a solution as a whole,” Lopez said. “Our local elected [officials] aren’t doing anything in regards to local homelessness.”

Photo: Dean Moses
Photo: Dean Moses

Lopez claims opposition to homeless shelters in neighborhoods across the city sparks the kind of mentality that leads men like Jasinski to die in the streets.

Councilman Robert Holden’s proposition to use local religious centers to take on homeless individuals is a viable option for protecting people on the street from suffering the same fate as Jasinski, according to Lopez.

“We need to do a better job collectively,” Lopez concluded. “A number of people would have passed by him that morning, it was the morning after the storm so I’m sure people would have noticed that he was wet and freezing in that weather, and nobody called 911.”

Photo: Dean Moses
Photo: Dean Moses

It was not until around 9 a.m. on Nov. 16 that a 911 caller reported Jasinski’s condition to NYPD and EMS who declared the 44-year-old dead at the scene in front of 66-95 Forest Ave.

According to Lopez, whose church does homeless outreach via the Hungry Monk Rescue Truck, said there are about 20 to 30 visible street homeless people in the greater Ridgewood area as well as some who come from Brooklyn for services.

Hungry Monk posted a fundraiser to GoFundMe in the wake of Jasinski’s to levy funds for their own facility with beds.

Posted on Nov. 27, the next day they had already reached $2,250 of a $25,000 goal to accommodate up to 15 people and provide them with meals.