Thank you to URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs to returning to BHS where he was Rabbi 30 years ago when our shelter began. Rabbi Jacobs volunteered as an over night host in our shelter earlier this month in honor of the 30th Anniversary of our shelter and reflected his thoughts here. We thank Rabbi Jacobs for his continued support of our shelter and hope everyone is able to join him in volunteering.
Located on the ground floor of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, 131 Remsen Street, between Henry and Clinton Streets, the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue Homeless Shelter provides a warm, safe place to sleep, along with a hot meal, for ten men. The Shelter, which is open Monday through Thursday nights during the winter months, is an entirely volunteer effort, coordinated by BHS congregants and supported by members and non-members alike, including other synagogues, schools and community groups.
Guests are brought to the Shelter by bus from a drop-in center operated by CAMBA, the largest social service agency in Brooklyn. All Shelter guests are screened by CAMBA since we are not expected to host men with emotional or physical challenges. The only thing all our guests have in common is that they are homeless men. They are otherwise a diverse group in terms of age, background and circumstances. Some men will spend the night in our Shelter having been at work all day. If our beds, food and hospitality were not available, many would have nowhere else to sleep. Click here for more information about our guests.
We provide an evening meal each night. The hospitality and opportunity to dine in a small group setting are at least as important as the food we serve. The men are offered a hot breakfast when they return to the drop-in center in the morning. We encourage them to take non-perishable leftovers with them when they leave; in many cases these leftovers will serve as their lunch.
Overnight Stay: Two adults spend the night at the Shelter. Two people may sign up together or an individual will be paired with another volunteer. Volunteers arrive at 7:00 pm and are met by an Evening Coordinator who shows them the ropes. They set up and serve dinner. The next morning they get up early, and are free to leave by 7:00 am. A child over the age of Bar or Bat Mitzvah is considered an adult and may spend the night with a parent. Children under the age of 13 may cook or spend the night with two adults. Click here to view our Guidelines for Overnight Volunteers.
Cooking: Volunteer cooks may prepare a meal at home and deliver it to the Shelter kitchen by 7:00 p.m. with a description of the meal and instructions for serving/heating. Alternatively, the meal may be prepared on site or ordered for delivery. Some Overnight Volunteers choose to cook as well. Cooking is also an excellent way to involve children as Shelter volunteers. Click here to view our Guidelines for Cooks.
Learn more about homelessness:
Who are the homeless?
How many are homeless in NYC?
Where do the guests sleep when our shelter is closed?
Who are our guests? Some suggestions for conversing with them
Check out BHS in the News on our News and Events Page
Volunteering at the Shelter is not hard or scary. We give you very clear instructions and there are always people to help. Use our online sign-up calendar to choose a date to spend the night at the Shelter or to cook. This season the Shelter opens on Monday, November 4, 2013. If you want more information about our shelter, need help using the sign-up calendar, would like to volunteer in other ways, please contact
BHS earned the Golden Gumby award from CAMBA for being so flexible in switching from a women's shelter to a men's shelter at CAMBA's 4th annual volunteer recognition dinner on Tuesday, May 7. We also were honored for providing 135 nights of warm food and safe rest to 566 women and men in the 2012-2013 year. And we were the ONLY synagogue among the respite care providers!