About Us

Helping Hands had its beginnings in November, 2004, when Rev. Angela Boatright, pastor of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, called a meeting to combat homelessness in the county.  A homeless man named Roy who was in attendance described the miserable living conditions in which he and other homeless people were living on the streets of Spring Valley and Nanuet.

In response, students of the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge, led by their teacher, Raoul Cansino, organized a “run” to distribute food, clothing, blankets and other necessities to Roy and thirteen homeless neighbors.  Roy dubbed the project “Helping Hands.”  A second run reached over thirty homeless individuals, some of them without even a blanket to protect them from the frigid January weather. 

Our experience convinced Helping Hands, now including many adult volunteers, that we needed to do more than pass out supplies.  Adopting a model that had proven effective in neighboring counties, we asked local homes of worship to open their doors to people seeking protection from the cold.  On January 20, 2005, we had our first night of safe haven in the Saidyyah Qadiriyyah (Felicity) Mosque in Spring Valley.

In 2009 we opened our Outreach Center, dedicated to the memory of co-founder Thomas A. McCabe.  With the assistance of our professional staff in the Outreach Center, many of our guests found employment or permanent housing, giving us the inspiration to carry on with our mission to serve the homeless.  In 2017 Helping Hands took over the administration of the Rockland Interfaith Breakfast Program, which serves a cooked, nutritionally balanced breakfast and a bag lunch to all who come to us.

 The safe haven program expanded to over twenty-five participating houses of worship, but the need became so great that many of the smaller sites could no longer accommodate the number of homeless persons seeking shelter.  After many years of advocacy by Helping Hands, the County of Rockland opened the Warming Center in Pomona in November 2017, providing overnight shelter during the six coldest months of the year.  Helping Hands was awarded the initial contract to operate the shelter, but in 2018 the contract was awarded to Catholic Charities.

 In 2019, United Church of Spring Valley, which hosted our Outreach Center, clothing closet, showers and laundry, was sold to the Church of the Nazarene.  The Outreach operation was asked to move out to make room for a child care program, but the breakfast program continues to operate there every weekday.

 Helping Hands is now in the process of reorganization, with the goal of providing a mobile outreach to the homeless.  We have begun this effort by partnering with Stony Point Conference Center and the Department of Social Services who have offered to provide shower facilities one day each week.  Helping Hands will organize this effort and provide transportation, towels and toiletries.  In the fall, we hope to expand this effort to three mornings per week.

A Former Safe Haven Guest At Work

  
     

Our Beginnings

Helping Hands had its beginnings in November 2004, when Rev. Angela Boatright, pastor of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, called a meeting to combat homelessness in the county.  A homeless man named Roy who was in attendance described the miserable living conditions in which he and other homeless people were living on the streets of Spring Valley and Nanuet. In response, students of the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge, led by their teacher, Raoul Cansino, organized a “run” to distribute food, clothing, blankets and other necessities to Roy and thirteen homeless neighbors. Roy dubbed the project “Helping Hands.” 

A second run reached over thirty homeless individuals, some of them without even a blanket to protect them from the frigid January weather. Our experience convinced Helping Hands, now including many adult volunteers, that we needed to do more than pass out supplies. Adopting a model that had proven effective in neighboring counties, we asked local institutions to open their doors to people seeking protection from the cold. On January 20, 2005 we had our first night of safe haven in the Saidiyyah Qadiriyyah (Felicity) Mosque in Spring Valley.

Since then, over thirty communities of faith have supported the Safe Haven program, opening their doors and their hearts to our homeless guests. Hundreds of dedicated volunteers have made it possible to offer our homeless neighbors thousands of overnight stays, providing shelter from the cold, relief from hunger and, just as important, renewed hope.

 In 2009 we opened our Outreach Center (dedicated to the memory of co-founder Thomas A. McCabe). With the assistance of our professional staff in the Outreach Center, many of our guests find employment and/or permanent housing, giving us the inspiration to carry on with our mission to serve the homeless.

 

Objectives for future initiatives:

   •  Create Supportive Housing 
   •  Reach Every Homeless Person in the County
   •  Offer Comprehensive Outreach Services 
   •  Ensure that everyone in Rockland has shelter 
   •  End Homelessness in Rockland,
        One Person at a  Time

For more information, call (845) 356-0100, e-mail us at info@helpinghandsofrockland.org 

or fill out the convenient inquiry form on the contact page.