by Gabriella DePinho & Shannon Gleba
Riverdale’s Welcoming Neighbors Committee met on the Manhattan College campus on Wednesday, Nov. 1, to discuss their continued support of the transitional housing shelter that has opened at 5731 Broadway.
The committee is comprised of local residents that live in the Community Board 8 area of the Bronx and are working to publicly support the transitional housing site that has recently opened.
The location is now accepting residents and gathering aid to assist future residents of the site.
The long term vision of the group is to have a city in which there are fewer homeless people. The group hopes for broader initiatives to tackle the larger issues that cause homelessness in NYC.
Ivan Braun, a leading member of the committee, commented on the group’s formation and goals.
“[Welcoming Neighbors is] a group of people who came together to really provide a warm welcome to the people moving into the facility on Broadway and provide whatever assistance we can,” she said.
The group hopes to help provide material donations of diapers, school supplies and children’s clothings, in addition to any demonstrated needs of the residents.
Welcoming Neighbors is hoping for donations from large retailers, local stores and generous community members, including residents of the MC community.
The group has plans to provide more resources to the residents than just supplies to meet their basic needs, but to also help the residents celebrate the holidays. WN hosted a Halloween party for the residents of the site which included candy, desserts, face painting and arts and crafts for the children. WN is starting a collection of monetary donations so the group can finance Thanksgiving dinners for the residence.
Welcoming Neighbors first interacted with the MC community through Dr. Margaret Groarke, who helped arrange the new meeting place for the group.
MC’s campus minister Conor Reidy has gotten involved with the group and is a Riverdale local who decided to take part in the group as a resident of the neighborhood and MC representative.
“I talk a lot about advocacy and community involvement in my job so I wanted to make sure I was doing that personally,” said Reidy. “One of the five points of the Lasallian stars is inclusive community so we need to make sure that not only at our college campus but in a wider Riverdale, Bronx community, we are inclusive.”
In addition to providing a meeting room, Welcoming Neighbors hopes to have Manhattan College students and faculty get involved in the organization’s efforts.
Jone Lewis, a member of WN, hopes that students will get involved in providing these resources.
“The college students are part of the neighborhood and getting involved in what’s good and healthy for the neighborhood and the people in it is a really good idea and it’s also a way to be part of the real life of the neighborhood,” said Lewis.
While many locals want to see MC students getting involved, Reidy feels it is too early for student involvement.
“I don’t think the homeless shelter has the capacity for students to be coming down to volunteer too much right now because they have yet to develop certain programming that they will be developing, like after school tutoring, GED classes, child care. Once they do get it off the ground, I do hope to see Manhattan College students getting involved,” said Reidy.
Welcoming Neighbors member and recent Columbia graduate, Ryan Elivo, wants MC students to be aware of the importance of their role in working for broader social changes.
“Students play a very special role in democracies. Students have toppled dictators, and have fought for justice and I think students have to relive that role that we’ve had since the sixties to actually affect change,” said Elivo.
“So, I am not even going to encourage students, they should do it because it’s a duty in a way, to get involved and see what difference they can make because education is a privilege and it’s their duty to make a difference wherever they can.”
Welcoming Neighbor’s next meeting is on Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. in Leo 237.