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Stories From Main Street: Helping The Homeless In Spring Valley

Jean-Max Naissant (credit: Helping Hands)

Jean-Max Naissant (credit: Helping Hands)

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SPRING VALLEY, NY (WCBS 880) - Homelessness isn’t just an urban problem. The suburbs are not immune.

WCBS 880′s Sean Adams On The Story

“Most homeless people are not stereotypical chronic homeless. Most of them are temporarily homeless, find themselves in a crisis, and need [a] safety net,” said Helping Hands executive director Chris Murray. “They’re clean. They’re friendly. They’re not the least bit menacing. They’re of sound mental health. They’re not on drugs and alcohol. They’re just people that fell on a hard time and are looking for work to put their lives back together.”

In Rockland County, that safety net is Helping Hands — a network of 18 churches that provide shelter, hot meals, and social services.

“They’re sleeping in abandoned cars. They’re sleeping in abandoned buildings. They’re sleeping in hallways of populated buildings and they’re all over. Most Rockland homeless are not pushing shopping carts and [don't] look like they’re totally in another world,” Murray told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams.

Stories from Main Street - Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

Stories from Main Street - Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

RELATED: More Stories From Main Street

In the basement of the United Church in Spring Valley, there is a safe haven, a refuge for a few dozen to sleep during the bitter winter. It’s a place to shower and wash clothing.

“To go on a job interview, you have to look presentable, which is very hard to do if you just spent the night sleeping in a car,” said Murray.

Helping Hands relies on the generosity of many volunteers and kind donors.

LINK: Helping Hands

What little funding it received from the county was cut in the first draft of an austerity budget.

“Donations – we always welcome donations, whether it’s monetary or basic stuff, hygiene products – socks, underwear, deodorant, shampoo,” said incoming executive director and current case manager Jean-Max Naissant.

People in the shelter are referred to as guests out of respect.

Whenever financial challenges arise, the folks who run Helping Hands won’t let their guests down.

“We’ll manage to stay afloat,” said Naissant.

“When the world tells you, your family, your friends that you can’t stay here anymore and you have no options, we try and set and keep people’s dignity, their self-worth, and their value as a person intact,” said Murray.

Are you doing something to help the homeless? Share your story in the comments section below.