Bay Ridge’s homeless population is growing — and so is the neighborhood’s response.
More than 100 runners hit the pavement to support homeless veterans in the Willie McCabe Memorial 5k Run and Walk in Owl’s Head Park on Nov. 13 — double the number of participants at the inaugural event last year. The pack raced through the park in honor of founder Liam McCabe’s late father — a homeless Vietnam veteran — and raised more than $1,000 to help military vets get back on their feet, an outpouring of support that was truly heart-warming, said McCabe.
“It felt good to do this in my dad’s name, and I think it really brightened the veterans’ day. And sometimes I think the best thing we can do is just acknowledge their suffering. Unfortunately, homelessness has become a big issue in the city. And it’s right here in Bay Ridge — there are homeless in banks and on the avenues,” said McCabe, referring to an exclusive report this paper published about the destitute sleeping in bank cash machine vestibules. “And I think our run is a way of focusing people’s energy and interest towards this issue.”
The race kicked off at Owl’s Head Park on Colonial Road and 67th Street where runners looped the green before snaking along the waterfront for a mile and then doubling back to the park. And humans weren’t the only ones running. Some participants sprinted with their dogs. It was truly a community effort, said one runner.
“It was good to see so many come out for a very worthy cause,” said Janine Acquafredda, who hails from Windsor Terrace and works in Bay Ridge. “Particularly in Brooklyn and Bay Ridge where we have a lot of homeless veterans, and I feel like the most effective way of helping them is to go small and within the community.”
Proceeds will go to shelter operator Samaritan Village — which runs a program that builds homes for homeless veterans in New York. But the nonprofit has been under fire recently for allegedly not providing promised services to its shelter residents — something organizers considered when deciding on an organization to work with, said McCabe.
“My committee did take that into consideration,” he said. “But I’ve been assured. We asked if it’d be okay if we’d visit the shelters, participate, volunteer, and get a hands-on view of what’s going on, and they were very receptive to that.”
The event also included local live music and a post-run feast.