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.