The more than 12,000 families who currently reside in city homeless shelters may receive a brief respite from their struggles this Thanksgiving.
The city’s Department of Homeless Services, nonprofits and volunteers have come together this week to offer shelter residents a variety of events, dinners and accommodations to make their holiday as memorable as possible.
Joslyn Carter, the administrator of the Department of Homeless Services, said while there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach, the events share a common thread.
“When families are in shelters, they have a sense of community. We aim to emphasize that,” she said.
There are 40,417 parents and children residing in city homeless shelters as of Monday — roughly 9,000 fewer than November 2015, according to DHS’s census.
Although DHS isn’t organizing its own citywide event, it is encouraging shelters to throw their own holiday-related dinners and parties throughout the week. The department also partnered with nonprofits and companies such as Comfort Diner Restaurant, the First Presbyterian Church, Springfield Gardens and the New York Rangers, to help promote volunteerism during the holiday.
“We want to make sure that our partners have provided the best events,” Carter said.
Shelters across the city have also come up with creative ways of celebrating Thanksgiving. At Help USA’s homeless shelter on Ward’s Island, residents will feast on food prepared by chef David Burke on Wednesday.
Christine Quinn, the executive director of the nonprofit Women in Need, or WIN, said the organization focused on giving the families residing in their 10 shelters a chance at a more independent holiday. With the exception of a facility in the Bronx, each shelter unit includes a working kitchen — so those families will receive a free turkey and other food items to cook their own dinners.
Quinn, a former City Council speaker, said the opportunity to create their own Thanksgiving celebration gives those families confidence and, more importantly, experiences that will carry over when they leave the shelter system.
“It’s a helpful thing is to sit around a table and be with your parent or your sibling or your grandma, just like everyone else,” she said. “That unit in the shelter isn’t their forever home, but it’s their home now, and they deserve the dignity of having a Thanksgiving.”