Lisa Cotoggio celebrates Valentines Day by baking heart-shaped cheesecake sandwiches for people who are homeless


Julia Rose Herman

2/12/19 6:00am

A mystery crime writer turned baker is challenging everyone to help people who are homeless this Valentines Day. Lisa Cotoggio is the founder of a small business she calls “Grandma’s Cheesecake Sandwiches.”

This Valentines day she will be handing out over 150 heart-shaped cheesecake sandwiches to the homeless in Manhattan and Long Island. Cotoggio's desire to help people who are homeless is personal. She is even finishing up a book that is inspired by an encounter she had with a woman who is homeless. She wants to make others feel special this Valentines Day and hopes her efforts will bring more awareness to the crisis of homelessness.

NYC Man's 'Super Soul Party' Helps Homeless Enjoy Big Game

Meir Kay's chance encounter with a homeless man sparked an idea that's turned into an annual event.

By Noah Manskar, Patch Staff | Feb 1, 2019 2:26 pm ET

NEW YORK — Meir Kay spotted a homeless man on the street about two years ago who was holding an unusual sign. He didn't need food or drink, it said — he felt invisible and just wanted someone to talk to.

With the Super Bowl coming up, the encounter gave Kay some inspiration. He invited five homeless people he met on the street to a party for the big game at a rooftop bar on Fifth Avenue, where they ate and hung out among the crowd.

"The Super Bowl is this unofficial holiday where family and friends get together. Someone who doesn't have them in their life could feel even that much more lonesome," said Kay, a 29-year-old video producer from Crown Heights.

Kay turned that impromptu invitation into an annual event called the "Super Soul Party." After planning parties in New York and Los Angeles last year, he's partnered with local shelters and is raising money through GoFundMe to make this year's celebration far bigger than the first.

Kay said he's expecting about 50 homeless people from two shelters and three to 15 more invited from the streets to gather in Chelsea on Sunday for this year's face-off between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams.

About 30 volunteers will also attend the bash, which will feature a clothing drive and an on-site barber as well as food and drinks for the guests, he said.

The get-togethers have a clear impact on the homeless people who attend, Kay said.

"They have a sparkle in their eye," he said. "Their energy is on a whole other plane. They can look you in the eye, have a conversation and they're laughing, they're communicating."

Kay has a YouTube channel with more than 210,000 subscribers. Some of his videos have racked up millions of views, including one in which he high-fives people hailing taxis and another in which he turns a subway car into a dance club. His video from last year's Super Soul Party has been viewed more than 25,000 times.

Kay hopes to grow the parties into a larger organization that can host events across the country. He wants to have a party in 20 states next year and eventually expand to every state.

The parties are transformational not just for the homeless guests but also the volunteers, who get to interact with people whom they might not otherwise take the time to talk to, Kay said.

"It really opens up and gets them in touch with a part of themselves that they hadn't had a connection with in so long, and also takes away a stigma, takes away a fear afterwards of being able to approach people who are experiencing homelessness in the streets," Kay said.

NYC’s homeless taking advantage of shutdown to sleep in unstaffed parks

The government shutdown has been great for some lower Manhattan hobos — who are now able to catch up on their beauty rest during the day on the steps of Federal Hall.

As the national memorial on Wall Street went unstaffed for the second week, The Post on Friday observed one man resting comfortably at 12:30 p.m., just feet from the giant bronze statue of George Washington.

“Excuse me, you go!” building security would have directed the snoozer if Federal Hall was open, according to vendor Rooby Abdelrehim, who was selling hot dogs and drinks a few feet away.

Behind Rip Van Winkle, there was evidence his pals also knew of the now-plum sleeping spot, with cigarette butts, papers, flattened cardboard boxes — and even a deflated blow-up neck pillow — sitting on either end of the building’s grand portico.

“Just sad,” said Jeffrey Spitzer, 30, who cursed when he saw the shuttered building — and the trash.

That mess was nothing short of unpatriotic, according to some disappointed visitors — who climbed to the locked entrance only to see a sign that said “AREA CLOSED because of a lapse in federal appropriations.”

“Our first president took his oath of office here and our [current] leader can’t get it together enough to keep it clean,” said Emma Barfield, 25.

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A single homeless woman often sleeps under the Greek Doric columns — but Federal Hall workers at least toss her cardboard boxes in the morning, said a man sweeping the sidewalk.

The partial government shutdown that began Dec. 22 closed that Greek revival building, which is run by the National Park Service, along with seven other sites in the Big Apple, including Grant’s Tomb and the Hamilton Grange.

Only the Statue of Liberty and Castle Clinton at the tip of Manhattan remain open.

Meanwhile, at another National Park site, the Gateway National Recreation Area on Staten Island, garbage cans were overflowing last week.

Some National Parks out west, which have remained open but with little or no staff, have been overrun with trash and human waste during the shutdown. And three people have died in park accidents during the shutdown, the Washington Post reported.

Tim Stack, 57, a Staten Island resident who works in finance and was taking a smoke break at the bottom of the Federal Hall steps, said he supported the government shutdown but thought the state or city should at least step in and pick up the trash.

“We’re all supposed to be in this game together,” he said.

A Christmas Day Vigil in Grand Central Remembers the Plights of the Homeless

In their trademark blue jackets and hoodies, formerly homeless members of the Doe Fund gathered Tuesday under the vaulted ceiling of Grand Central Terminal to honor the woman whose death led to the fund's creation.

She was known as Momma Doe, an Eastern European woman who took refuge in the terminal in the 1980s. She was chased away by police on Christmas Eve in 1985, and forced to spend the night in bone-chilling cold. She died on a bench there the next day.

"We started the Doe Fund, after Momma Doe died on Christmas Day in 1985, to help provide opportunity for people I had been feeding here for 700 nights in a row," said George McDonald, the founder of the Doe Fund.

The Doe Fund runs Ready, Willing and Able, a program that provides formerly homeless and incarcerated men work in return for money, housing, and an opportunity to land a private sector job to help them become self-sufficient.

Clutching electronic candles, standing shoulder to shoulder, members of the program sang songs and shared stories of how the Doe Fund transformed their lives.

Craig Twiggs joined the program in 2016, after serving 27 years in state prison for murder.

"All I had was $40 and a bus ticket after doing all that time," he said. "Nothing else to show for it, nowhere else to turn to but what I knew."

Statistics released by the city Department of Social Services shows a tight housing market coupled with soaring income inequality has led to more homeless people on New York streets.

The city's most recent daily homeless census, taken last Thursday, counted 60,887 homeless people in the city, including a staggering 22,377 children.

"There are no ups and downs in the homeless population in New York City; it's just been a straight upward incline since 1980 when Ronald Reagan was president and the federal government disinvested in housing," McDonald said. "We haven't missed a beat, and it will continue to go up because we're not investing in housing."

Christmas was not a day off for these men. After paying tribute to Mamma Doe, they returned to their jobs — work they hope will lead to the gift of housing and a self-sufficient life.

More Than A Tenth Of Nation's Homeless Are In NYC, Report Shows

The nation's 50 biggest cities are home to more than half the nation's homeless people, according to an annual federal report.

By Noah Manskar, Patch Staff | Dec 18, 2018 6:02 pm ET

NEW YORK — New York City was home to more than a tenth of the United States's homeless people this year as homelessness was mostly concentrated in the nation's large cities, an annual federal report shows.

A total of 552,830 people were homeless across the country on a single night in January 2018, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Annual Homeless Assessment Report released Monday. Some 78,676 of those, or about 14.2 percent, were in New York City, giving the five boroughs the largest homeless population for a major city, the report shows.

The nation's 50 largest cities accounted for more than half the nation's one-night homeless population, which grew by 0.3 percent this year, the report says. Nearly a quarter — or 24 percent — were in New York or Los Angeles alone.

The city accounted for more than 85 percent of the 91,897 homeless people recorded across New York State this year — a figure that has ballooned nearly 47 percent since 2007, according to the HUD report.

Only 5 percent of the city's homeless people are unsheltered, one of the lowest rates in the nation, the report says. Some 3,675 people in the city were sleeping in public places on one night this January, while about 61,000 were in shelters this past Sunday, according to city Department of Homeless Services figures.

The majority of the city's population comprised homeless people in families with children, the HUD figures show. Those 45,285 people accounted for about a quarter of the 180,413 people in that category nationwide, a number that reflects a 2 percent drop from 2017, the report says.

The nation's homeless population has decreased more than 13 percent since 2010, according to HUD. This year's slight uptick was because of nearly 4,000 people staying in emergency shelters in places affected by hurricanes and other events, as well as a 2.3 percent rise in unsheltered homelessness, the department says.

"Much progress is being made and much work remains to be done but I have great hope that communities all across our nation are intent on preventing and ending homelessnes," HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a news release.

Couple Provides Outreach Bags to City's Homeless

NEW YORK - At 24 years-old, Jayson Conner found himself sleeping on park benches in San Francisco, begging for his next meal.

Things like soap and deodorant were a luxury.

"People were very cruel. They would just walk by you and not even say hello, nothing, not even glance at you," Conner recalled.

Years of drug and alcohol addiction caught up to him leaving him no place to call his own.

"It was really, really rough. I didn't feel like I belonged to anything. You feel like you're just there, just breathing. That was it," Conner said.

Almost 15 years ago – still homeless – Jayson moved to New York, where he eventually met his now husband – Jeffrey Newman – and his life began to turnaround.  

He got clean and a job as a server in Midtown.  

Now, the pair is doing their part to help others living on the street.

"A person's circumstances doesn't make them anymore worthy of kindness and compassion, dignity and respect, and people forget that," Newman said.

Three years ago, the Queens couple founded the non-profit "Together Helping Others."

A few days a week, Conner and Newman walk around the city handing out backpacks to those in need.

They're filled with things like clean socks, toiletries, and hand warmers and blankets for cold nights.

"A lot of people will say 'you're giving me the whole bag?' And 'yes! this is all for you!" Conner said.

The pair is energizing others to do the same. Earlier this year, Conner and Newman launched “Backpacks for the Streets”. Now, instead of just the two of them, hundreds of volunteers canvas neighborhoods, handing out bags to the homeless. 

"Seeing this, seeing that we can do something to help people just like Jayson is incredibly inspiring to me," Newman said.

It's inspiring to Conner too who says he could have never imagined he would be touching the lives of so many.

"We want something that's going to last long after we are gone. And I believe we can do it. I believe if everyone gets together, we can change the world," Conner said.

So for pounding the pavement to give back to those in need, Jayson Conner and Jeffrey Newman are our New Yorkers of the Week.

Mobile clinic offers free medical help to NYC’s homeless

Mobile clinic offers free medical help to NYC’s homeless

Posted: Dec 03, 2018 11:56 AM EST

Mobile clinic offers free medical help to NYC’s homeless


More than 60,000 homeless people sleep in New York City shelters, and many of them are families in need of medical resources. That's where the New York Children's Health Project steps in.

The mobile clinic, in conjunction with Montefiore Medical Center, acts as a doctor’s office for those in need.

It comes at no cost to the homeless community for services, including physicals, flu shots and other urgent medical needs. 

The New York Children's Health Project is one of 27 programs operated by Children's Health Fund, a nationwide nonprofit which ensures high quality healthcare to America's most disadvantaged children. 

Anyone who would like to donate to the project can visit their website.

Homelessness in NYC reaches record high as economy rebounds

Spotlight: Homelessness in NYC reaches record high as economy rebounds

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-22 05:05:12|Editor: yan

NEW YORK, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Winter is officially in town, with the first snow last week and possibly the coldest Thanksgiving in a century freezing most of the U.S. East Coast. For tens of thousands of homeless New Yorkers, another months-long survival challenge has begun.

Homelessness is nothing new to New York, the largest city in the United States with a population of 8.6 million. People in rags can be spotted lying or begging in nearly every major street, subway station or public square, making newcomers wonder whether the city matches its glitz and glam described in movies and travel guides.

According to the latest statistics from the Coalition for the Homeless, the nation's oldest organization serving the homeless, such population has reached its highest level since the Great Depression. From shelters to the streets, nearly 70,000 people could hardly find a home in one of the richest cities in the world.


Despite a strong economy and record-low unemployment in decades, there are around 63,000 New Yorkers living in the municipal shelter system every night, signaling a 77 percent hike from that 10 years ago. Nearly three quarters of them are families with children.

They do not include the people on the street. According to Urban Pathways, a nonprofit organization serving homeless adults in New York since 1975, more than 3,800 people are sleeping outdoors across the city's five boroughs.

The street homeless, in most cases, are not eligible for shelters or unwilling to move in. Many of them suffer from chronic diseases, severe disabilities, mental illness or substance abuse.

Some factors contributed to homelessness, including eviction, domestic violence, and job loss, according to the researches by homeless-serving organizations. Many pointed out that homeless issue here is ultimately a housing problem.

New York City has been home to both the richest and poorest of the country -- with the top 1 percent earning 40 percent of the city's income and 1 in 5 New Yorkers rated as poor. However, it's the rich who decide how the cost of living would go, including housing and rental prices.

According to a 2017 study by the real estate website Zillow, nearly 3,000 more people would fall into homelessness with 5 percent of rent increase on average.

"It's the disconnection between what people have as resources and what it costs to live here (which leads to the homelessness)," said Frederick Shack, CEO of the Urban Pathways. "If we don't solve that problem, we're going to continue to have substantial numbers of people living in shelter," he added.


When Bill de Blasio took office as the mayor of New York in 2014, he was determined to tackle the unprecedented homeless crisis by preventing evictions, reinstalling a rental subsidy program, and promising to allocate 15,000 units of affordable housing to the homeless households. In a report titled "Turning the Tide on Homelessness" published in 2017, the mayor again announced a plan to reduce the number of homeless people to about 57,500 in five years.

Plans hardly catch up with the reality as the city gets more expensive everyday. The number of people in the shelter system has actually increased by 23 percent over the past four years.

"His commitment still doesn't match the need," said Shack, but he didn't blame de Blasio for that because the mayor has demonstrated huge progress compared with his predecessors by recognizing the problem. "I'm not going to be overly critical. I'm going to keep pushing him to do more, but I'm also going to acknowledge what he's already done," said the CEO.

In Shack's view, putting the homeless into supportive housing doesn't cost that much as most people imagine. When a homeless individual encounters health emergency or violates social order, the cost of public resources, such as emergency facilities, police force, and even jail, is not cheap at all.

"The cost associated with maintaining a person on the street can be upwards to 20,000 to 24,000 dollars a year. The cost of taking that same person into a supportive housing program, maybe slightly more, maybe 1,500 dollars more than it would cost on the street," he explained. "But I think it's a much better investment of public resources."

The long-term goal of Urban Pathways is moving the street homeless indoors. Staff would go out in pairs and reach out to the homeless, persuading them into the organization's over 500 self-developed housing units located across the city, where individuals could live in a shared or private room.

In this way, they don't have to obey certain rules and curfews, or regularly talk to a case manager as in the shelters. The only requirement for them is not being involved in major crimes. The organization will also help the homeless get their deserved Supplemental Security Income and other benefits.

For Shack's staff, being rejected is an everyday situation. But they would not give up. Instead, they try to invite the homeless into their drop-in centers, giving them food and offering places for a shower. Shack believes that keeping a relationship with the homeless and meeting their needs will bring them closer to getting to a point where they would consider moving indoors eventually.

Still, Shack believes that the governments at all levels are indispensable in tackling the chronic issue, as social organizations are often challenged with a shortage of funding.

"The state (government) can do a lot more than it does in terms of homelessness," he said. "And the 60,000 plus people that you see in the shelter system, I'd say we could resolve that within a month if the federal government were committed to providing an adequate supply of section eight vouchers that would provide people with an opportunity to access housing at the market level, and they are required to pay 30 percent of a family's income to support it."

But the federal government "has been absent basically for a number of years," he lamented.

In Shack's opinion, forging a partnership between housing providers like his organization and the government is essential to effectively address the issue. "Getting government to partner with providers and planning solutions together is something that's going to be really important," said the CEO who has worked in social services for 28 years.

"My expectation is there's collaboration. There's a social problem. You (the government) recognize a problem; We understand what some of the technologies are needed in solutions. Then we work closely with the government to craft solutions and become a partnership. I think that really works well," he added.

4th Annual Walk for Warmth

The 4th annual Walk for Warmth started with 15 brave souls leaving Wesley House (501 Sixth St, B’klyn) at 7:00 AM on October 8th 2017. One of the 15 was 8 year old Sowazi (Waz) Datillo, the youngest walker ever to join us. We headed to Flatbush Avenue and then to the Brooklyn Bridge. The weather was warm but wet. By the time we reached the first stop in the financial district of Manhattan, we were a little water logged. We met up with Ed Casey there.

All of us realized that we would eventually go home and dry out; not true for the homeless.

Then we prepared for the second leg of the journey along the east side of Manhattan.  Dr Jayakummar and her group of friends made an excellent go of it. Lorna, Kathy, Latisha, Paris, Xenia, Dianne, Donna, Tariq, and the two Michaels rounded out the troupe.

Most of us made it to lunch in sight of the Queensboro Bridge and we were feelin’ groovy.

After lunch, we crossed to Queens and proceeded to trek back through Hunter’s Point and Long Island City to Brooklyn for a refreshment stop in chic Williamsburg. A few of us dropped out but eventually the remainder of the intrepid group made it back to Wesley House.


Jody for The Sleeping Bag Project NYC