The pantry at The Bowery Mission is bleakly bare. Where once enough food was stored to fill up the small shopping carts of the homeless who came in looking for comfort every two weeks, now the organization has to suggest its members come only once a month. It’s in “urgent need” of more food.
Usually at this time of the year, the Mission, at 227 Bowery, receives more donations. But the shelves are nude two and a half months before they usually start to notice a reduction of canned goods, according to Matt Krivich, Director of Operations and Community Relations. While The Bowery Mission receives the bulk of its food from entities like City Harvest, Whole Foods, and the Food Bank for New York City, it needs more individuals to donate canned goods. The building is open 24 hours every day, taking donations as well as online. Bread, bananas, meat, and drinks are plentiful. However, foods like pasta, rice, beans, vegetables, and soup are just as essential and now in minimal supply.
At the rate the organization gives out meals, Krivich says the cans might last the rest of this week, but as of now there is “not enough for 200 people.” The mission serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner (about 1,000 meals per day) at its locations, and gives pantry food to about 80 to 100 people a day, he says.
Last week, Lt. Patrick Ferguson of the Ninth Precinct noted an uptick in homelessness in the East Village, and statistics bear it out: citywide homelessness is up 6 percent since Bill De Blasio became mayor, Washington Square News reports today. Krivitch believes it’s at its highest since the Great Depression. The Bowery Mission website states that one in every 152 New Yorkers is homeless — 52,000 live in shelters, while another 3,200 sleep on the streets.
Most people travel long distances to get to the pantry and the daily meals, Krivitch says. They come from the Bronx or Staten Island. “It shows me that some of those pantries are distributing less and something is putting a strain on their resources.”
To accommodate a wide array of needs, The Bowery Mission also provides clothing, shelter, showers, biblical services, counseling, free clinics, a women’s center, and summer camps for children. There are 6-month residential housing programs available to those who need to turn their lives around and stay off the streets. Right now, 80 men are housed in the program, and as soon as the renovation is done to the building, there will be 140 beds. There are also about 200 men who make the chapel their bedroom every night.
Today they will have 100 men asking for pants, but will only be able to provide 30 pairs. About twelve pairs of shoes are on the ground underneath the shelf of pants, but there is not a variety of sizes. There are enough T-shirts, but no sweaters, long-sleeve shirts, or boots for the cold months ahead. Krivich says, “We do the best that we can.” But, he adds, “We don’t do it alone. We rely on our supporters and donators.” The Bowery Mission has a long history of this working. They have been around caring for those hurting since 1879.
Krivich points to his favorite photograph on the red wall of their upstairs meeting room. It shows immigrants from over 110 years ago, taking up all the room on the pews in the chapel at an old location of The Bowery Mission. “Our pews are still full more than 110 years later,” he says with a proud smile.