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Hundreds attend Stand Up for the Homeless

Volunteers at Stand Up for the Homeless sort

Volunteers at Stand Up for the Homeless sort through donated clothing. (Aug. 3, 2011) Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

Tanisha Bryson, 27, knows the benefit of planning ahead.

The mother of two had been living with her husband and children in a rental apartment in Deer Park for four years, when suddenly, her landlord wanted them out. They had three months to figure out where to go and how to scrounge up enough extra cash for a security deposit or they would be homeless.

Her husband, Darrell, 35, is a department manager at Kmart, but his sole income was just enough to make ends meet. Moving expenses would push them over the edge.

“We needed more time,” she said. “It’s hard when only one person is working.”

Bryson had attended last year’s Stand Up for the Homeless event, sponsored by the Suffolk executive’s office that brings both county and private social service organizations under one roof. Through conversations she had with social workers at the event, Bryson figured out how to find help.

She worked with the Department of Social Services, which she said paid for the broker’s fee and security deposit on her family’s new apartment in Babylon.

The fourth annual Stand Up for Homeless event was held at St. Joseph’s College on Wednesday, where organizers expected about 600 people — 200 of them children — to attend. In addition to social service booths, Island Harvest and Long Island Cares donated more than 400 pounds of food; the Patchogue Rotary Club donated clothing, diapers and school supplies. There were also free medical and dental screenings, and We Care Ministries was giving haircuts and manicures.

“All these services exist, but people don’t know about them,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. “It just made sense to bring everything together under one roof.”

Levy said his office has “without question” seen the need for social services increase during the past few years.

“The calls received are going through the roof,” he said.

Jo Anne Collins, division director at Family Service League in Huntington, said more and more, her organization sees two-parent families with income that  covers  the bills and rent  become homeless when a landlord kicks them out or the house is foreclosed upon.

“This had nothing to do with them,” she said. “They were doing everything right.”

Besides resources and knowledge, Collins said the benefit of an event like Stand Up for the Homeless is the sense of community it brings to people who feel like they don’t belong to one.

The event also featured face-painting for children and a slew of smiling volunteers who made sorting through piles of donated clothing look more like having a personal shopper at a boutique.

Bryson said her family is stable for now and she’s working on building a career in child care while her husband continues to work. As her 1-year-old daughter got a heart painted on her face, she said she was once again attending the event  “just in case.”

“I don’t want to ever be on the streets,” she said.

Photo:  Volunteers sort clothing at Stand Up for the Homeless at St. Joseph's College. (Aug. 3, 2011)

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