Volpe introduced the New Ground organization, which was founded in 1991. “It has been providing support to homeless veterans and families on Long Island in a very local and palpable way,” she said. Boyle has been a part of New Ground for nearly 18 years and mentioned that the organization is approaching its 30th anniversary, which is exciting, but is also “somewhat depressing that we are still needed after all these years,” Boyle said.
New Ground was founded by Sister Máiréad Barret, who helped homeless families while living in a shelter as a support staff worker. Boyle explained that while working there, Sister Máiréad Barret noticed that there was a cycle where families would return to the homeless shelter after a few months of leaving, and this was because “nothing significant had really changed - they hadn’t increased their education, they hadn’t increased their ability to earn a livable wage, they didn’t have a greater support network in place, and they didn’t have savings.” Due to these circumstances, Sister Máiréad Barret recognized the need for an organization that would help break that cycle of homelessness.
When New Ground was first established, they began working with homeless families that needed support, however, after two years, New Ground was aware that their support could be used to help veterans as well. Today, New Ground continues to support homeless families and veterans through three main programs: the Jump Start Program, which supports actively homeless families, a Long-term Housing Program, which supports families by providing basic nutritional and physical needs, and a Veterans Program, which supports vets by helping them obtain permanent stable housing. Boyle explained, “for all the families and veterans that we are working with, we are providing key services around financial literacy, education, career development, and helping them really address all the barriers and issues that are preventing them from being successful and living independent lives.”
Boyle recalled the story of a single mother of two sons who became homeless after losing her job and being evicted from her apartment. Boyle remembers how she was “very motivated to really make a change for herself and her boys,” and worked with New Ground for almost four and a half years while working, going back to school, and making sure that her sons were on track by taking advantage of New Ground’s reading program and tutoring services. After working closely with her assigned social worker, the mother ended up debt-free with her own apartment and career.
Volpe asked Boyle how people can take advantage of the program, and Boyle explained that by having social workers on staff, New Ground is able to assign one to each family and veteran in the program to provide them with a close contact. Boyle also notes that what is most important for making a difference to these families and veterans is how New Ground works as a team, both within their organization and alongside other programs, such as homeless family and veteran shelters, the Department of Social Services, and the Supportive Housing Program.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, Boyle mentioned that New Ground has found that there is a “much greater need for basic needs, especially for families on Long Island, for food and even safety needs like gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes.” Boyle also noted there has been a great number of supporters who have “helped us fill our conference room with food and much needed PPE supplies.”
New Ground continues to empower families and veterans in need and does so in a way that ensures they will break the cycle of homelessness. For more information, visit: https://newground.org