Part II: Navigating the system


You’ve lost your home or you’re about to lose it.  What do you do now?

For most people, the answer is contact the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, which oversees and administers support to a variety of social problems, including being unhoused.

Prepare to wait on a telephone queue for at least 30 minutes. For best results, call as early as possible on a non-holiday Monday morning well before noon. You may be on hold for 30 to 40 minutes listening to a prerecorded message asking if you’d like to press # and have a representative call you back. Skip this prompt and prepare to hear it repeated frequently.

You may be fortunate and hear a human voice respond to your call. The Riverhead DSS location responds to requests for assistance in the Moriches and Manorville communities. The representative may suggest that you drive to their location and file the necessary applications for assistance in person. 

No car? The Suffolk County Transit System has a bus stop in Center Moriches that travels to Riverhead.  Vouchers for bus fare are provided by DSS, but you may have to get there first.

By far, the most likely organizations to offer help directly to those in need are Harbor House Ministries and the Center Moriches Free Public Library.

Harbor House is a local nonprofit located at 25 Frowein Avenue in Center Moriches (631-874-4180, office@theharborli.com) and offers service to anyone who needs it, including a food pantry for those who are unhoused.  Its church budget covers funding for ongoing assistance to families and individuals, regardless of religious affiliation, including during holidays like Christmas and Easter, and sometimes difficult to afford supplies like diapers.

Its staff will also help connect those who require assistance with food, electricity, and rent through New York State’s 211 program.

211 NYS Get Connected, Get Help (211 or 211counts.org) is an “easy to remember number that helps people cut through what can be a confusing and overwhelming maze of information and resources.”

Through the United Way, both communities and individuals receive services like daycare, food/food pantries, and shelter.  Trained staff and translators are available (fosterr@uwnys.org or shaheenm@uwnys.org).

Often, need-based services require use of a computer to find or apply for them.  People who need them can find both public computers and a helpful staff at Center Moriches Free Public Library.  A library card is not required, but you must present a photo ID; for example, a driver’s license, college, military or work ID, passport, or credit card with photo.

Marcie Litjens, library director, strives to make CMFPL a welcoming place.  “All people, regardless of economic status, are welcome to use the library facilities as long as they adhere to our maintenance of public order,” she said.

In addition to the computers, services include free notary, fax, internet, one-on-one Medicare phone appointments, as well as newspapers that include Help Wanted listings.

Social work interns are available Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays; appointments are recommended, but not required.  They can assist with SNAP and WIC benefits, referrals, housing questions, etc.

Job seekers can check out JOBNOW, listed on the CMFPL website under online resources, for help with every step of the job search process. 

VETNOW assists veterans and their families with navigating the VA bureaucracy and employment transitions.

And, for those whose needs are of a more personal nature, there is the “Cleanly Corner” of free hygiene items like toothpaste, toothbrushes, menstrual products, etc.

Finally, since a lack of insurance can accompany being uncertain about housing, CMFPL in cooperation with Catholic Health Services, offers free health care services like blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol screening, and referrals as needed. Schedules announcing upcoming health care opportunities are listed in the library newsletter. No appointments are necessary on days of scheduled services.


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