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INTERVIEW: Maureen's Haven Executive Director Dan O'Shea On The Non-Profit's First South Fork Benefit, Local Homeless Outreach, And More

Nicole Barylski

Last year, Maureen's Haven provided the shelter program to over 100 individuals. (Photo: www.facebook.com)

Maureen's Haven is hosting its inaugural winter benefit, which also marks the first time that the non-profit is holding a celebration on the South Fork, on Saturday, December 1.

We caught up with Dan O'Shea, the new executive director of Maureen's Haven, to learn more about the fundraiser, the organization's programs, and more:

This is the first South Fork Maureen's Haven benefit. Why now?

DOS: We've been on the East End of Long Island since 2002 and we pretty much cover both Forks, but being new to the organization and speaking on behalf of the board of directors as well, we do feel like we could increase our presence on the South Fork, as far as an organization. This year, for example, we are returning to East Hampton with out winter shelter program. It just seems natural to start holding a few more events in the South Fork. We'll continue to do it in Riverhead and the North Fork as well, but we're just trying to spread it out and it is important to be in the South Fork community.

What can people expect?

DOS: It's going to be a nice cocktail party, so there will be some appetizers, snacks, a DJ, silent auction. It's really going to be a nice opportunity to meet the board of directors, the staff and more importantly meet other supporters of Maureen's Haven.

Tell me a little about Maureen's Haven's programming and services?

DOS: Maureen's Haven, again we started in about 2002, most people know Maureen's Haven for the winter shelter program, which is rightfully so and it is a wonderful program. However, our office is open all year-round so year-round we provide case management, which is essentially trying to connect folks with services and help them obtain their goal. Their goal may be housing, and we'll work with them to get housing. It may be getting some sort of counseling or addiction counseling, we'll help them with that. Certainly any kind of medical attention, and sometimes it's just using a phone, sitting in our basement - we have a guest center that they can use year-round - and there they can get clothes, some food, watch TV, use phones. So, really it's a full service day center that's open year-round. The winter shelter program is a wonderful program. That goes from November 1st through typically March, but this year we've extended it through April - because it's been cold the last couple of Aprils so we figured we should be extending it. The winter shelter program essentially our guests will come to us during the day, we screen them and do intakes, and then we send them to the various host sites throughout the East End. Those host sites are typically churches, temples, and houses of worship. Right now we have approximately 18 or 19 host sites, and probably an equal number or greater of additional churches, synagogues, house of worship volunteers, as well as community organizations to help out. We may have 19 host sites and their congregates will be volunteering and then in addition to that another congregation may cook the dinner, another organization may come in and cook the breakfast, and they may rotate.

How many people did the organization serve last year?

DOS: Last year, and I would say for our 2017/18 winter program, we would have provided the shelter program to over 100 individuals and that would have totaled 2,498 beds for the seasonal. That's just in the winter shelter program. The day center, on average, could see anywhere from 5 to 10 to 40 people a day.

What is Maureen's Haven's reach?

DOS: There is a need in both Forks. We get word of homeless folks from Montauk/East Hampton, Hampton Bays, Southampton, certainly through Greenport/Orient - as far as Westhampton, Wading River. So the entire East End we do get reports of homeless folks. The population does vary. Some of them are certainly a transient population, so I hate to say it but your typical homeless person, other folks are newly homeless or they've been bouncing in and out of say a rehab. One of the things that we do is we're going to be incorporating, in this season as well as 2019, is greater outreach in the community. That's going to be again, as an agency, having a greater presence on the North and South Fork year-round. And more importantly that we're spreading the word to not only the homeless population but community members, the libraries, the teachers, the law enforcement agencies, and other caring individuals that do call us pretty routinely, looking out for folks. It's not uncommon. Sometimes a community member will say, you know, I saw somebody and I'm calling out of concern. So we're trying to do quite a bit more on the outreach side. But, it takes funding and resources, and that's what we're looking to do - increase programs as well as hopefully increase funding.

With winter and the holidays coming up, what is Maureen's Haven's biggest need?

DOS: That varies and the reason I say that varies is because you hit it right on the head with the season. We are going into the holiday season and right now fortunately there's a lot of generous people on the East End. I have a lot of folks that want to volunteer to cook or serve meals or just donate their time. Christmas time, Thanksgiving time fortunately we do have a lot of folks wanting to help out. Right now, we could always use the coats or the socks or the underwear, gloves, hats - the usual items. Food always goes a long way. But, I do tell folks, don't forget us in February or March or April when we still need socks and underwear and coats and food. So, right now, I have to say the community is very generous, but certainly it is a need that's always changing. I mention now coats, hats, gloves, in the summertime we need t-shirts, shorts and we still need socks. So there's an evolving need that's hard to gauge so it really is depending on time of year, what kind of stuff we have sitting in our inventory. We have a big closet in the back where we can fit men and women's clothes and toiletries and things of that nature.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

DOS: There's a couple of points I always like to add. One, I'm always very amazed and at the end of the day humbled by the volunteers that we have here on the East End. Between the host sites and the volunteers and the community organizations, we have a lot of support and it's just amazing to see it happen in real life. The other thing I would like to point out is certainly I do like to mention my board of directors. I have a wonderful board of directors that not only supports me as an executive director, but certainly supports Maureen's Haven and they do feel that Maureen's Haven could be playing a greater role in the community. We've been playing a huge role for years, but just to continue to play a role. The last thing that I think is really, really important that often times gets overlooked when you're speaking to an executive director or board member or volunteers is at the end of the day, the people who need a lot of credit is certainly my staff. I have a wonderful staff and they not only care about the guests, they not only care about Maureen's Haven, but my team on every instance goes above and beyond and they are a wonderful staff that would really go to the ends of the earth for the population, and I can't speak highly enough. More importantly I can't be lucky or fortunate enough to have the staff that I do have. They do a terrific job.

Maureen's Haven winter benefit will take place at Seasons of Southampton (15 Prospect Street, Southampton) from 6 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $50 and available at winterbenefit.brownpapertickets.com.

For more information about Maureen's Haven, visit maureenshaven.com.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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