Social Services in Action

05.30.23 | Food for the Soul, Staff Stories, Voices of our Community

If you’ve been to the Soup Kitchen during our daily meal service in the last 2 years, you’ve seen a line of our guests waiting for a hot meal. You’ve probably also seen a slightly smaller line of guests waiting to meet with Jay Alfaro, our Social Services Manager.  

Jay handles many of our guests’ needs – from organizing their mail and providing toiletries to helping fill out applications for housing and printing job applications and resumes. For Jay, the most important part of her job isn’t one service or action: it’s treating our guests with dignity and respect.  

“They’re so used to being disregarded and ignored. When they find someone who’s willing to help with some of the most basic things, they’re extremely grateful. I’ll see some of the Soup Kitchen guests outside and they always greet me and say hello – it’s great having that working relationship with guests. I get to know them as people.”  

That’s why Jay tries to get to know many of our guests’ names – the simple act of greeting someone and taking the time to know their name makes a huge impact on our guests. It makes them feel comfortable enough to tell her what they’re going through.  

Jay recently assisted a Soup Kitchen guest named Nicholas, who first arrived at the Soup Kitchen looking for a hot meal. When he arrived, Jay introduced herself and offered to help him complete paperwork to become a licensed street vendor in New York. As a result, he’s been able to work consistently as a vendor in Union Square. With a stable income and secure housing, he no longer needs the Soup Kitchen’s services, but Nicholas knows that he is always welcome here for whatever help he needs.  

We often hear from guests like Nicholas who showed up for a hot meal, and gradually became comfortable enough to reach out to our social services team for help on their path to stability. When Jay talks about guests who turn their lives around after receiving help through our Social Services department, she says: “Sometimes, they look like a completely different person.”  

When I asked Jay what our guests need most right now, she responded with her three most common requests: legal aid, mental health counseling, and clean clothing. In the winter, we receive an excess of clothing donations but in the summer, we experience a shortage. In the heat, many of our guests sweat through their clothes and desperately need something clean to change in to. 

Our supporters like you make it possible to respond to Jay’s requests, and to the needs of our guests, with action. We know that we can rely on our community to always step up when our guests need you.   

Sarah Marcantonio

Sarah Marcantonio


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