It’s not all that often that church pews double as theater aisles at The Bowery Mission’s Lower East Side Chapel but that’s what happened today, as local homeless men sought refuge from the single-digit temperatures.
Staffers set the thermostat above 70 degrees and unspooled a projection screen to show DVDs of The Bible, a 10-part miniseries that aired on the History channel last March. (The Blind Side was screened during a previous film session.) A few dozen men wearing hooded sweatshirts and nylon jackets watched stories of Jesus, Moses and Sampson before a backdrop of Christmas tree garland and organ pipes.
The Bowery Mission provides three meals a day to anyone in need, plus clothing, showers and shelters to men without a place to go. People with apartments are able to stock their empty refrigerators with “pantries,” i.e. crates filled with canned goods, milk, yogurt, fruit, bagels, and other food donated from merchants around the city.
James Macklin, director of outreach, said that nearly 200 men slept there last night, with even more expected this evening.
Reverend Rudy Hugo, president of Loving Education at Home, which champions Christian homeschooling, said today’s crowd was larger than usual. “We’ve come the first Tuesday of the month for the last 18 years — I’ve never seen it this full during this time of year.”
Jason Storbakken, the chapel’s director, said a man suffered a seizure at the facility this morning, but said he didn’t need an ambulance. The man recovered in time for lunch.
“It’s a double whammy between the cold and the seizures this time of year. We have so many people in a concentrated amount of space for an extended period of time. And there’s a lot of drinking this time of year, and people detoxing from alcohol. That’s the challenge for us — we don’t want to put anybody on the street.”