Brooklyn soup kitchen overwhelmed by ‘heartbreaking’ influx of migrants

An influx of migrants has wreaked havoc on a Brooklyn soup kitchen that serves as a lifeline for the needy in Gowanus and Park Slope, The Post has learned.

The privately run Community Help in Park Slope has been stressed to the limit since some 300 asylum seekers moved to a nearby hotel — leaving staff scrambling to provide food and clothes and local clients worried they might not be able to get meals.

“It’s really heartbreaking to see that these migrants are coming on the line and we’re seeing the kids with no shoes, no jackets on,” said Pauline Auguste, director of food services at the group, known as CHiPS.

“It’s heart-wrenching — we try to accommodate them as much as we can with hats, gloves, and socks.”

The kitchen — which also provides clothing — has been doing its best to deal with the influx of clients but is hoping the city can do more to assist.

“We need help,” Auguste said when asked if he had any words for city officials. “Come and visit the soup kitchen. Come and talk to the people on the line so you can see the strain that it’s putting on small nonprofits like ours.”

Throngs of people lined up outside the kitchen
Hundreds of asylum seekers had overwhelmed the CHiPS soup kitchen in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Paul Martinka for NY Post

The line wraps around the block
The line of hungry migrants and New Yorkers in need stretched around the block Tuesday afternoon.
Paul Martinka for NY Post

A picture of the Holiday Inn Express
Some 300 migrants were being housed around the corner at a 625 Union Street Holiday Inn Express which had been converted into an emergency migrant shelter by the city.
Paul Martinka for NY Post

The non-profit was spending up to $800 more every week on eggs, bread, coffee and sugar for breakfast, and was relying on local donations to help the arrivals from the southern border meet their basic clothing needs, the director said.

“Before we were serving 60-180 people a day, but we always used to make extra so we can give people double. Now we’re serving over 300 plus. So we have seen a significant change,” he said.

“We really try to give everybody a meal, we don’t want to turn anyone away. But it has been strenuous on us and the staff having to serve that surplus of 100 more.”

New York City has seen over 41,600 asylum seekers arrive in the boroughs since the spring and has opened 77 emergency shelters and four Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Centers, with two more on the way in Midtown Manhattan and at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, officials said Monday.

Staffers at the soup kitchen said they had been serving the migrants since around Thanksgiving, and just saw a new influx on Saturday.

Migrants could be seen Tuesday carrying their food back to their temporary, tax-payer-funded shelter at a Holiday Inn Express on Union Street, which is just a block from the Sackett Street soup kitchen.

One mother of two children — who arrived on Saturday — said the food at the hotel shelter wasn’t good.

“My kids don’t like the food here. My friend told me about the (soup) kitchen,” she said as she pushed a stroller after getting a meal at CHiPS.

Chef Matthew Caban said he was initially hired to make up to 200 plates a day. Lately, he had been making at least 300 — and staying later than scheduled.

“The lines are around the corner. We’re supposed to shut down at 1 p.m.,” said Caban. “I left yesterday at 2 p.m.; we were still putting out plates and the line went around the corner.” 

A migrant man, who only identified himself as Angel, said “not enough,” when asked by The Post about the food being given out at the shelter. 

A man named David who had been coming to this soup kitchen for years said the scene had recently “become too much” amid the influx.

“They had to stop the breakfast line, in order to start the lunch line,” David said.

“They’re migrants; they’re coming into the community and eventually they will become a part of the community, but right now they are not set up to feed them.”

“As far as I know, they are not getting no help from the city. We have a mayor that is struggling right now and he’s asking for federal assistance. At what point do we say enough is enough?” he rhetorically asked.

David said the soup kitchen was an anchor in the community and staffers do their best to “not let anyone go hungry.” Recently, however, “it’s getting to a point where it’s too crazy,” he said.

“They used to give out one hot meal and one cold meal. They can’t do that anymore. Now they’re only giving out one hot meal because it’s too many people. That second meal used to come in handy. You sleeping on the train, in the doorways, that second meal used to come in handy.” 

Shanice Smith, the branch director of development, also appealed to the city for assistance.

“It’s putting a strain on us because they are coming to us with more than just needs for food. They are coming with needs for clothing, needs for resources, they need translation so we can communicate with them, that we currently don’t have or have the staff capacity for. So I think it’s really hard for us,” Smith said.

“I know the city is strapped but we need more resources, we need more funds, we need more support. We need everything — advocates, everything.”

Mayor Adams, who had recently visited El Paso, Texas for a first-hand look at the nation’s surging migrant crisis, had said its impact on the city amounted to a “disaster” last week.

Adams said the Federal Emergency Management Agency had yet to act on his request for $1 billion to offset the cost of sheltering migrants.

The city had spent $366 million on the migrant crisis as of last month, Budget Director Jacques Jiha said. FEMA had refunded the city $8 million of that expense, the feds had said.

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