ELMIRA, NY (WETM) – Starting last week, volunteers with The Sisters Keepers ministry have been on E. Water St. at 5 pm every day, handing out food to the homeless.

Those volunteers used to bring bags of food to the homeless that lived underneath the Clemens Center Parkway Bridge, but after the City of Elmira’s recent decision to evacuate those encampments, volunteers wanted to set up a consistent location to feed the homeless.

“We just started [the food stand] this week, when Code [Elmira Code Enforcement] threw them out from their location under the bridge… They are all kind of dispersed at this point so we just wanted a central location to be able to provide them some food,” explained the organizer of the food stand, Tammy Bennett.

Getting the word out about the food stand to the homeless, now dispersed around Elmira, couldn’t have been done without Joe Caulkins and his bike. Bennett calls him their “homeless liaison.”

“I travel probably 50 miles a day on a bicycle just to try to make sure everyone is here at 5 o’clock,” said Caulkins.

Some people depend on the food stand for their meals every day.

“A month ago I went for probably a week and a half without anything to eat…If it wasn’t for Tammy we wouldn’t know where we’re getting our next meal or anything like that,” said one of the homeless people at the stand David Houghtaling.

After the city’s recent evacuation of encampments underneath the Clemens Center Parkway Bridge, and with the Second Place East homeless shelter also closing down recently, options have been limited. This is why Bennett has been working in collaboration with Caulkins to purchase a house to serve the homeless.

“It’s going to be called the House of Hope…I don’t even want to call it a shelter. It’s going to be a refuge of love and respect…Anybody can come, nobody is going to be turned away,” said Bennett.

She says they are hoping to buy the house within the next couple of months, and residents are eagerly awaiting that move-in day. When asked, Houghtaling was quick to respond, “I’m going to end up at the House of Hope.”

Rest assured Bennett and the volunteers will have lots of helping hands fixing up that house, as a ‘thank you’ for all they have done for them, Houghtaling explains.

“To show them that we appreciate what they’re doing.. All of us can throw in a little bit you know, it ain’t hard to move a paintbrush up and down.”

Bennett is hoping to turn her volunteer work into a non-profit organization and will be accepting donations and more volunteers in the near future.

  • If you are interested in volunteering you can email Tammy Bennett at occtam@gmail.com, or contact her phone number at 607-259-8481.
  • If you would like to donate they have a cash app: $TheSistersKeepers.
  • For more information on what they are doing, they can be found on Facebook: The Sisters Keepers