Homeless in Moriches

Winter on the Street (The first in a three-part series about being unhoused in our community)


The sudden mid-January chill forced most living beings to seek shelter. 

Few ventured out to Center Moriches’ main shopping areas.  What traffic there was moved quickly through the frigid air. 

News reports included warnings of frostbite risks to those who lingered too long outside in the 20 degree, and lower overnight, temperatures. Municipalities opened their warming centers in an effort to offer respite to those who needed it.

The woman crouching on the cold cement next to the refuse container outside CVS sought to make eye contact with the infrequent passersby entering the store. Few returned the gesture.  A single SUV approached the curb and paused long enough for the driver to lower her window. Was the woman okay? Did she need a blanket? The offer declined, the conversation ended and the driver went on her way.

Another ventured near, hoping to engage her a bit more, perhaps to offer some warm food or a kind word.

Wrapped in blankets, her bagged belongings cushioning her against the cold metal bin, the woman smiled, revealing several missing teeth but warm, friendly eyes.

“I had a head injury, “she said.  “Just came out of a coma.  The rest of my things are at the shelter. But I don’t belong there.”

There are no laws against sudden cold snaps or vagrancy in Suffolk County. Poverty isn’t a crime. Whatever circumstances had led to her being outside when others were not, one can only guess. But a similar scene playing out in front of a CVS several villages west had prompted calls to police when the man was said to be aggressive.

At least three people, two women and a man, spent time in and around Center Moriches this year facing issues related to homelessness.  The woman in front of CVS appeared during some of the most extreme weather we’d had to date.

Her odyssey through the next days took her up and down Clinton Street, along Railroad Avenue, nearly as far as Nettie’s Bakery. At times, she pushed a shopping cart laden with her belongings, her face burnished red from the biting wind, her arms tugging the cart over the uneven, unyielding pavement.

Clearly, she was struggling.  And the struggle was increasing.

NANA’s House (Never Alone—Never Afraid) operated a shelter on Railroad Avenue until they went out of business last year.  An occasional car parks in the driveway of what outwardly appears to be a single-family residence.  While it may have been the shelter, she mentioned she was not inside it on the coldest days.

Near the end of January she sat, crumpled against the caved in section of rusting a chain-link fence that borders a dilapidated property south of Sunrise Highway, 1.9 miles from CVS.  A young man leaned down and spoke with her, her face raised to him.

Their conversation, and what happened to her next, remain a mystery.


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