Tikkun Olam: Mitzvahs On Your Own

Photo Credit: Open Hearts Initiative

October 20, 2022

On October 7, 2022, the number of people in Department of Homeless Services (DHS) shelters in New York City was reported to be at an all-time record. Since then, the numbers have continued to increase to up to 63,100, while thousands more are living in the city’s smaller domestic violence and youth shelter systems, as well as on the streets.

Many of the individuals and families entering shelter recently arrived in the U.S. to seek asylum, and they often arrive with no more than the clothes on their backs. They enter a shelter system that is already at capacity–in large part because it takes folks over 500 days on average to exit shelter into housing, due to the immense barriers to accessing housing that homeless New Yorkers have long faced and continue to face. crisis that has been building for years.

Team TLC NYC, an affiliate group of Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden, is a grassroots organization committed to providing basic needs and support to asylum seekers and immigrants. They are currently leading the effort to greet migrants who are arriving in New York City by bus at Port Authority and the Megabus stop at West 34th Street every day of the week. Besides offering a warm welcome, volunteers with Team TLC NYC help migrants make their way to shelters, connect with family or friends, and secure bus tickets if they want to travel elsewhere. Volunteers also provide food, clothing, and toiletries to help meet any immediate needs. Volunteers who speak Spanish are especially needed, but all volunteers are welcome to participate in this mitzvah. Learn more and sign up for a shift here.

Another mitzvah on your own with Open Hearts Initiative is helping load and transport donations in Midtown for families experiencing homelessness. After their successful toy drive for homeless families at a local shelter, in partnership with several elected officials and the NYPL’s Epiphany Library branch, they need volunteers to transport donated items from Epiphany Library on 23rd Street in Manhattan to their nearby destination. If you are available this week to help load these items into a car or van, please email to participate in this mitzvah.

The Ellington shelter at 610 W. 111th St (between Broadway and Riverside Drive) is accepting donations of coats, snowsuits for babies, snow boots, and cold weather gear for adults and kids of all ages and sizes. These items can be dropped off with the security staff at the shelter at any time. Upper West Side Assembly member Linda Rosenthal is also accepting donations through October 21 for families at a different shelter. Click here to learn more.

Click here to view a drop-off map created by New York Cares with locations and organizations accepting coat donations this winter. You can also email for more information on where to donate.