People may not associate homelessness with the small village of East Rochester, said Teresa Quinzi-Willette, president and director of the East Rochester Community Resource Center.
Yet in the past few weeks, the community-resource center has been helping a man in his early 20s, who has been sleeping in a local park after he became homeless. In recent months, those seeking help from the center have tended to be younger and younger, Quinzi-Willette said.
"Lately, we have been getting a lot of younger adults who have lost their jobs and are having a rough time," she said.
The center, which serves those in need who live in East Rochester, last year received requests from 1,635 families and individuals. Of those requests, 698 were from families seeking food, and those nearly 700 families included 1,085 children, 971 adults and five elderly people.
To help it meet the demand, the center received a $910 Hunger Relief grant funded in part by the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal. Quinzi-Willette said the money went into the organization’s crisis fund, which helps people in emergency situations with back rent, utility shutoffs, medical bills, prescriptions or other immediate needs.
The center also provides a week’s worth of meals for emergency hunger relief, used clothing, used furniture and household items, bus passes and other needs. The center sometimes offers needy children money for registration fees so that they are able to play sports. Budgeting sessions and advocacy also are available to clients. The center also collaborates with the East Rochester Fire Department to provide Christmas food baskets and gifts.
All this aid has evolved from a food cupboard begun in 1973 by St. Jerome Parish’s human-development committee, which is now the parish’s social-ministry committee.
The center has been located in several spots, including in St. Jerome’s basement and in the former St. Jerome convent on Filbert Street. Since then, the center has moved into a permanent home at 333 E. Chestnut St. in the village.
"It kind of seems like it has been there forever now," Quinzi-Willette remarked.
Six churches now support the center and refer people in need to it. This helps prevent duplication of services and promotes efficiency, she said.
"We decided to combine our services and all contribute to one center," Quinzi-Willette said.
People referred to the center are met with understanding and confidentiality from Quinzi-Willette and Associate Director Pat Cragg, said Father Steven Lape, pastor of St. Jerome Parish and a member of the center’s board of directors.
"They are not just giving out stuff, but they love and care and support people," he said.
Quinzi-Willette points out that she and Cragg are helped by a host of volunteers from the six churches who gather and deliver food, furniture and clothing, drive clients to run errands, stock shelves at the food cupboard and sort clothes.
"People are always willing to help," Quinzi-Willette said.