Breaking a Cycle of Homelessness

More than 117 people live on the streets of Long Island and another 1,500 live in shelters, which help people stay warm and safe also keep crime down. Mercy Center Ministries has worked to provide safe stable housing and also life skills training since it was founded in 1983 for women aged 16-21. Executive Director Briana Taylor spoke about the history of Mercy Center Ministries, their work to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty and what we can do to help.

Pulse Insider: Tell us a bit about the Mercy Center Ministries and what it hopes to achieve.
Briana Taylor: Mercy helps homeless 16-21 year old girls by providing shelter, childcare(if they have children) so that mom can go back to school or work. We also provide on site case management by a licensed MSW, counseling, around the clock supervision and guidance to help these young women learn independent living skills such as: cooking, time management, budgeting, and parenting. Mercy’s main goal is to provide safe stable housing while also providing life skills training so that when they leave our shelters they return to their communities employed and educated so that they can avoid chronic homelessness and poverty. Mercy hopes to break the cycle.

Pulse Insider: When was Mercy Center Ministries created and why?
Briana Taylor:
Sister Mary Waters was a social worker doing outreach work at Our Lady Of the Snow Church in Blue Point. In her work she discovered that there were transient, runaway, homeless girls in need of services. Her vision for a safe haven came to fruition with the help of co-founder Tee Kennedy many other community members. Ric Rose, owner of Clare Rose, donated our first house on River Avenue in Patchogue. We opened our doors November 1, 1983 for single homeless/runaway girls. Our two homes for girls with babies or who are pregnant opened in 1987(Blue Point) and 1989(Sayville).

Pulse Insider: Tell us a little bit about your role with the Mercy Center Ministries.
Briana Taylor:
I am the Executive Director. I am responsible for overseeing total agency function both fiscally and programmatically. We have 20 full time and 20 part time employees working in three shelters and the administrative office. I meet weekly with the Social Worker (supervisor) of each program individually to discuss staff and residents in detail. I report to a Board of Directors monthly. You could say I have my hand right on the pulse of the agency. I am lucky to be able to have the ability to be so close to the program details. I worked for four years as supervisor of one of the shelters and miss the client contact.

Pulse Insider: If someone were to ask you, “Why should I donate specifically to Mercy Center Ministries?” what would you tell him or her?
Briana Taylor:
First of all, there are a GREAT many worthy charitable causes and programs in need of help right here in our shared communities. Homelessness is a very big problem in Suffolk County. Many do not realize that there are shelters everywhere helping people stay warm and safe, which keeps crime down in our communities. Young girls and children are arguably among the most vulnerable when it comes to homelessness, as they often become victims of other crimes and don’t know enough basic life skills to navigate the social services system to get help. Ninety nine percent of the girls who come to Mercy have been victims of child abuse, sexual abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence. Mercy offers a place to heal, a safe place to learn life skills to avoid a life of chronic homelessness and poverty.

Pulse Insider: What are other ways people can become involved with Mercy Center Ministries?
Briana Taylor:
We desperately need volunteers to provide help with childcare in our shelters while moms are at school and work. There are requirements to work in our shelters such as a criminal background check and CPS clearance. Another great way to become involved is by attending one of our amazing and fun fundraisers. You benefit, and we benefit through your donation to attend the event. A free but very easy way to get involved is by liking our facebook page and just sharing our posts about items we need or fundraisers coming up, that would be a great help!

Pulse Insider: Tell us a little bit about what’s in store for Mercy Center Ministries in the next three to six months.
Briana Taylor:
FUNDRAISING EVENTS! For the ultimate fundraiser we have a Fashion Show on May 5th, this year’s theme is Cinco De Mayo, local fashions, a 65 basket Chinese Auction room, and other large raffles. The Fashion Show event requires RSVP so contact us for an invitation. This is the ultimate ladies night out, 400 women attend!!! We also have a Chili contest in March and a 5k run/walk in October. Facebook is the place to stay up on these and other events.

Pulse Insider: What do you think the future looks like for Mercy Center Ministries, short-term and long-term?
Briana Taylor: Short term looks like getting us all through the winter without pipes busting and major snowstorms. The bad weather impacts the girls because they rely on public transportation to get around, and walking to the bus stops in the cold and snow is not fun (although it is motivation to take the permit test and save for a car…). Long term looks like continuing to provide vital services to this vulnerable population who are worthy of our help and support. Our supporters have made this all possible so far. The future looks very bright for Mercy and the girls and kids we serve.