Amy Kienzle, Pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Messiah, opposite McGolrick Park, is calling for a community meeting next week to finally resolve the homelessness crisis in the neighborhood.
“We have to find a way to help people regardless of their situation,” said Kienzle. “Whether its economic instability or substance issues you still need support. Without it you have a lesser chance of getting healthy.”
The call for resolution follows the death of a homeless man in McGolrick Park earlier this month, yet another reminder of the nearly annual series of homeless deaths that have occurred in the Park over the past several years. Kienzle was joined by Father John Merz of the Church of the Ascension along with parishioners, on Sunday, to memorialize the most recent victim.
This latest death comes just as statistics released by the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) revealed that the city’s homeless have reached a record high nearing 60,000, an increase of 10 percent just within the last year.
“Losing one of our own is never easy,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol. “The people of Greenpoint came together for their fellow brethren, as was seen in the gathering organized by Pastor Kienzle, but the help also must come from the New York City Department of Homeless Services. These men shouldn’t be left in the park, especially when it is very cold out. I hope a tragedy like this does not happen again.”
In addition to memorializing the memory of the man who died in the park, the service was also an opportunity to gauge support for the cause.
A proposed homeless shelter on Clay Street has drawn criticism from several members of the Greenpoint community. Kienzle concurs that residents vary in their opinions about the homeless issue, but expressed confidence that the community would come together to reach a solution – as evidenced by the large turnout for the prayer service last Sunday.
Kienzle now in talks with local electeds, the McGolrick Park Neighborhood Alliance, the DHS and neighbors to see if her Church can be used as a warm shelter during the winter months.
And with the weather rapidly getting worse, the need for community members to come up with solutions at next week’s meeting is becoming even more pressing.
Meeting to Discuss Homelessness Crisis, Dec. 4, 7 p.m., Lutheran Church of the Messiah, 129 Russell Street