COVID-19 has exacerbated food insecurities everywhere and people are hurting. Some are going to bed hungry and choosing rent over food.
Leaders including Council Member Ben Kallos, State Senator Liz Krueger, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and Borough President Gale Brewer have worked with a local nonprofit to help people deal with these issues.
On Dec. 10, the Upper East Side welcomed a new Urban Outreach Center at 1745 First Ave., which features a supermarket-style food pantry, clothing rooms, community dinner, a mail distribution and a resource and job center.
The Urban Outreach Center is a new 501(c) 3 nonprofit, created from the homeless services mission of Avenue Church NYC, formerly Jan Hus Presbyterian Church.
“The Urban Outreach Center is committed to ending the hunger gap in East Harlem and the Upper East Side, providing our low-income neighbors with the healthy food they need, with the dignity they deserve,” said the Rev. Jordan Tarwater, executive director of the Urban Outreach Center of NYC. “We are so grateful for the warm reception from the neighborhood and the outpouring of support from those who share our vision that no parent, child, or senior citizen in NYC should struggle because they lack access to food or other basic resources.”
Tarwater noted that since March Urban has fed 50,000 people and some have been neighbors, while others they have never met before.
Both the Urban Outreach Center and Avenue Church NYC are members of Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Services (ETHOS), which was launched in 2015 by Kallos, Brewer and Krueger. In 2019, ETHOS welcomed a Win supportive housing facility for women and children to the neighborhood, just steps away from Kallos’ district office and home.
“You Are Welcome Here”
Kallos recalled that in 2014 he had just finished fasting for Yom Kippur when he told his rabbi the homeless crisis must end.
The council member began to work with Kruger and Brewer and eventually the new Urban location was born.
“People see a city that is dead with 10,000 vacant apartments,” he said. “I see the exact number of apartments needed to house the homeless.”
According to Kallos, whether it is supportive housing or a shelter, homeless people must be helped. The councilman added that while many do not want them in their backyard, he is open to living next to a homeless family.
“Even today there are people in this city who tell homeless people they can’t come here,” he explained. “If you are homeless, if you are hungry, you are welcome here on the UES. One by one, person by person we are going to help every single homeless person we can.”
Saundrea Coleman, co-founder of the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition and a member of Community Board 8, praised Kallos and Urban Outreach for their dedication to helping the needy. Coleman noted that food insecurities exist even on the Upper East Side.
She stressed that families shouldn’t have to decide between paying rent and getting food and or medication.
“The UES is not immune to the virus or poverty,” she said. “There’s a beacon of light on the UES and it’s my hope and prayers that this light will shine on borough to borough.”
“We are so grateful for the warm reception from the neighborhood and the outpouring of support from those who share our vision that no parent, child, or senior citizen in NYC should struggle because they lack access to food or other basic resources.” The Rev. Jordan Tarwater, executive director of the Urban Outreach Center