LI Intel semifinalist Samantha Garvey no longer homeless

Brentwood High School senior Samantha Garvey and her family, who were homeless when she became an Intel semifinalist, move into their Suffolk County-owned home in Bay Shore. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Jan. 28, 2012)

A Brentwood High School student who was living at a shelter when she was selected as a semifinalist in a national science competition has a home again.

Less than a month after the family was forced to relocate to a homeless shelter, Samantha Garvey and her parents, twin brother and sister Saturday moved into a Suffolk County-owned home in Bay Shore.

The family -- with Garvey's science teacher and mentor Rebecca Grella, 35 -- stepped across the threshold of the two-story, three-bedroom home.

The Brentwood High School senior, 18, said she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of generosity shown the family.

"I was homeless, and I didn't have a house, and because of the kindness of all these strangers, I do -- I have a house!" she told a bevy of media, officials and local business owners who made donations to refurbish and furnish the Oakland Avenue home.

"I couldn't have gotten here without education -- you make the best of it because it's the end to so many things."

The family gathered out front for an official handover of keys by County Executive Steve Bellone, who praised Garvey's maturity in the wake of a "whirlwind" few weeks since the teen was named a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search -- at which time the family's economic plight came to light.

In the days that followed, Garvey was not among the five Intel national finalists from Long Island, but she appeared on daytime television talk shows and was the guest of Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills) at the State of the Union address in Washington.

The Garvey house is one of five properties now owned and operated by the county after the charity that ran them went under. They are being rented to low-income families, said chief deputy county executive Regina Calcaterra, who was instrumental in readying the home and who spent some of her own childhood homeless and in foster care.

Calcaterra said the home became available last month after the previous tenant was evicted, leaving the house in disrepair. Local companies donated carpets, other flooring and furnishings.

County officials have said the Garveys did not receive special treatment. Gregory Blass, commissioner of the county Department of Social Services, said earlier this month that the Suffolk doesn't keep lists of people in waiting, and no one was cast aside for the Garveys to be placed in the home. The agency matches families and individuals with homes as soon as dwellings become available, based on a variety of factors, he said.

As do all tenants of the five properties, Samantha's parents, Leo and Olga Garvey, will pay 30 percent of their total income in rent, minus the cost of utilities, Calcaterra said. Leo Garvey drives a cab and Olga Garvey works as a nurse's aide, officials said.

The high school senior will not get her own room, however -- that privilege falls to Kenneth, her 13-year-old brother; Garvey will share a room with her sister, Kenneth's twin, Erika.

That didn't seem to bother her Saturday. Garvey said having a new home is "completely surreal. I can't be more grateful."

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