Dec. 18, 2018 By Laura Hanrahan
An outreach group run by Ridgewood’s All Saints Old Catholic Church is raising funds to help start a homeless bed program at the church—an effort catalyzed by the recent death of a homeless man in the area.
The Hungry Monk Rescue Truck, a mobile food pantry and care initiative run by All Saints, launched a fundraising campaign in late November aimed at creating a small multi-bed shelter at the 68-59 60th Ln. center.
The program would provide approximately 15 people with a place to sleep at night in the lower-level fellowship hall, along with meals in the evening and the morning and access to social service professionals.
While the idea had long been in the works, the church said the recent GoFundMe effort came just two weeks after the death of Arkadiusz “Arek” Jasinski, a homeless man with Polish roots who frequented the Hungry Monk Rescue Truck program and church over the years.
Jasinski was found dead on Forest Avenue in the morning of Nov. 16, having apparently frozen to death while sleeping through the winter storm the prior evening.
The location where he was found, according to the church, was where he would often sleep.
“It’s something that we’ve always hoped to try and accomplish as one of the goals of our organization, but I think the issue with Arek brought it a little closer to home and became a little more realistic,” said Father Mike Lopez of All Saints Church.
To date, the program’s GoFundMe page has raised more than $4,800 of its $25,000 goal.
Hungry Monk is also seeking financial support from the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) as part of its bid to start the program, but will first need to meet the city’s list of requirements to receive aid.
The requirements for bed programs include installing showers, hiring security and providing lockers for each guest.
Lopez, however, says the church will only need to make a few small changes to the location to meet the requirements—indicating that the program could be starting very soon.
The church’s efforts also received a boost from Council Member Robert Holden, who met with Hungry Monk organizers and All Saints staff last week to discuss the proposed program.
Holden, who has denounced large-scale homeless shelters and called for small, faith-based shelters in the past, said he is in strong support of the church’s bed program.
“This is exactly the type of program that I believe is the best solution to the homelessness crisis in our city,” Holden wrote in a Facebook post about the meeting.
“I have discussed this with DHS, and the unfortunate death of one of Father Lopez’s patrons has gotten the agency’s attention as well,” he added. “We will continue working toward a faith-based solution so that Arek Jasinski’s death is not in vain.”
Pastor Michael Ross of Covenant Lutheran, who owns the 60th Lane church building and fellowship hall that All Saints has recently been operating out of, has also given his support for the program.
Covenant Lutheran’s backing also comes just months after All Saints moved services to the building in September due to its prior home, Ridgewood Presbyterian on 70th Avenue, reportedly receiving complaints about the homeless men All Saints served.
Hungry Monk, meanwhile, is currently in talks with nonprofits to oversee the operations of the bed program, but was unable to disclose any names so far.