Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

11th Hour reprieve for Peekskill shelter & pantry

Lease extension for Northern Westchester’s only homeless shelter called ‘interim solution’
CHHOP volunteers host a barbecue for Jan Peek House residents in August, 2023 – Source: @chhop_peekskill on Instagram

On Monday, Caring for the Hungry and Homeless of Peekskill (CHHOP) announced it had extended lease agreements with landlords of its homeless shelter and food pantry, increasing the charity’s operating costs, but ensuring continued services for area unhoused and food-insecure residents. 

In a statement, the nonprofit said it had reached an interim two-year agreement with the owners of 200 North Water Street to renew its expiring lease for Jan Peek House, its long-running North Water Street shelter whose existence was threatened in late 2023 when the property owner demanded a substantial rent increase at the conclusion of CHHOP’s lease period.

The local charity has proactively sought a new location since 2018, when it proposed moving to a vacant commercial building at 851 Washington Street on the city’s south side. Following a vocal opposition campaign by some neighborhood residents, the organization abandoned that plan.

In 2022, CHHOP’s former landlord, Abraham Rosenberg, proposed a $7 million, privately-funded replacement for Jan Peek House on his Lower South Street property. Following public discussion and planning commission study, Peekskill Common Council approved a zoning text amendment to allow the purpose-built facility to move forward. But following a foreclosure action against Rosenberg and the city’s settlement of a lawsuit by the owners of nearby Blue Mountain Shopping Plaza, in December the nonprofit once again withdrew plans for a new shelter facility.

Simultaneously in late 2023, CHHOP also received notice from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, the landlord of its biweekly food distribution organization known as Fred’s Pantry, invoking a substantially increased rent payment – citing the pantry’s expanded operation from one to two days per week during the COVID pandemic.

While Monday’s press release confirmed new two-year agreements for both facilities, CHHOP CEO Cynthia Knox described the Jan Peek extension as “purely an interim solution, so our services and programs go uninterrupted. Until a permanent solution is secured our work continues,” adding, “The only shelter in Northern Westchester needs to be future proofed.” According to CHHOP, Jan Peek House provided shelter to 331 clients in 2023, including 56 military veterans, and also offers a “permanent, supportive housing program for those living with a disability; a collaborative housing, employment and support program for survivors of domestic violence and their families; and a rental arrears and support service program for low-wage workers and recent immigrants.”

 Describing Fred’s Pantry as providing “nutritious ‘farm to pantry’ food for those in need in our community”, Knox explained that the facility provided over 18,000 households with nearly a quarter of a million meals in 2023, adding that 62% of clients were new to the pantry last year. 

Fresh fruits and vegetables are distributed at Fred’s Pantry.

When asked how the CHHOP organization stays motivated in the face of continuous financial and location challenges, Knox explained, “We’ve been doing this work since 1988 to help meet the urgent needs of the community, and we’ll continue to do the work to address food and housing insecurity. We have interim solutions in place, but we still don’t have a permanent home.

“Our clients experience instability every single day. If our clients can work through the challenges they face, we can find our strength in their resilience and find ways to overcome our challenges too. With the support of the community, ultimately we’ll achieve long-term stability.”

Knox summed up CHHOP’s overarching vision in one line: “Thriving individuals and thriving families make for thriving communities.”

To learn how you can support CHHOP’s activities in Peekskill, you can reach Cynthia Knox at [email protected]