OUR PROJECTS - Special Projects

Housing Works COVID-19 Homeless Shelters

covid19 homeless shelters

Housing Works COVID-19 Homeless Shelters

UPDATE: The New York Post reported on the COVID-19 homeless shelters and our founder Rhonda Roland Shearer’s donations. The Post reported:

“Unable to rely on the city’s stockpile of protective gear and medical supplies, King turned to his community connections to find face masks, gloves and other supplies. Rhonda Roland Shearer, an artist and former Housing Works board member who had secured supplies for 9/11 first responders, donated  hundreds of surgical masks, hand sanitizer and disposable hospital gowns. “She stepped into the breach and found us impossible-to-find supplies through her 9/11 connections,” King said.”

UPDATE: We have fulfilled the immediate need for emergency supplies. We expect supplies will be delivered by April 14th.

Emergency Supply Order and Fulfillment 

  1. 250 face shields (ordered, delivery by 4/10/20)
  2. 2,000 disposable gowns (690 delivered 4/10/20, 1,310 delivery 4/12/20), 
  3. 4,000 surgical masks (delivered 4/7/20),
  4. 2,000 KN95s (300 delivered 4/7/20, 1700 delivery 4/10/20). 
  5. 38 1 liter bottles of hand sanitizer gel (April 13 delivery) 


Housing Works COVID-19 Homeless Shelters

  • NYC community comes together to shelter the homeless ill with COVID-19 so they aren’t left on NYC
  • St.Thomas Church Priests will bless boxes of surgical and KN95 masks before they are sent to two new Housing Works Covid-19 shelters. 
  • Desperately need PPEs to protect staff serving homeless with coronavirus
  • In a forced conservation of PPEs due to short supply means workers get one N95 mask a week and one surgical mask a day

A community effort organized by St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and Art Science Research Laboratory led to continuing support for Housing Works, which is now getting vital PPE supplies for staffers at its two COVID-19 homeless shelters. SoHo resident Hattie Grace Elliott of Blankie Tails searched factories and found 4,000 surgical masks and 300 KN95 masks (now approved for medical use). Rhonda Roland Shearer at not-for-profit ASRLAB bought the masks, with help from a donation.  St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue will bless the masks and then deliver them to Housing Works for shelter distribution.

What they are: Housing Works’ COVID-19 Homeless Shelters are solely for homeless people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have nowhere else to go.

Who is behind this: The shelters are operated by Housing Works. Not-for-profit Art Science Research Laboratory’s director Rhonda Roland Shearer provided Charles King, Housing Works’ longtime director, with original funding and start-up space for Housing Works in the 1990s, and started Housing Works Thrift Shops. Shearer is fundraising and securing supplies for St. Thomas Church’s new program to assist Housing Works’ COVID-19 shelters.

Why this is urgent: The poor and powerless will die on the street and likely spread the illness to others without shelters tailored specifically for homeless people with coronavirus. The need for protective equipment for staff and volunteers is desperate. Housing Works staff only have one N95 mask per week and one surgical mask a day and there are no gowns yet available. 

Where are the shelters? How many are there? The first shelter opened April 3 with 150 beds.  Another shelter is expected to open the next week with 100 beds. The location of shelters will not be released due to safety and privacy concerns. Homeless people who are in the shelter system get referred through the Department of Homeless Services. Emergency rooms also can refer people. If someone living on the street is symptomatic, they should present at an ER, identify themselves as homeless and ask to be tested and referred.

What do you need: We need PPEs on an emergency basis. Immediate needs are surgical masks, N95 masks or KN 95 masks, disposable plastic gowns, at least five gallons of bleach, five gallons of alcohol, and four cases of hand sanitizer.



The Reverend Canon Carl F. Turner, B.A., M.Th. became XIII Rector of Saint Thomas Church in July 2014. Prior to coming to Saint Thomas, Fr Turner was Canon Precentor of Exeter Cathedral for thirteen years. He led the Department of Liturgy and Music and worked with the 850-year-old Cathedral School. Canon Turner was responsible for all the Cathedral’s worship and music, including Diocesan liturgy, and advised the Bishop and clergy in many areas of pastoral liturgy. He is a former member of the Church of England’s Liturgical Commission and was a Director of the Association of English Cathedrals. Canon Turner is a Fellow of Woodard Schools, a member of the Order of Saint John, a Chaplain to the Order of St Lazarus, and a Priest Associate of the Holy House of Our Lady of Walsingham. The Bishop of Exeter made him Canon Emeritus in recognition of his service to the Diocese and the wider Church. In the Spring of 2014, he was elected to the Board of Trustees of Nashotah House but has, since, also formed active links with Berkeley School of Divinity at Yale and the General Theological Seminary.

Charles King is one of the founders and CEO of Housing Works, Inc. a community-based, not–for–profit organization that provides a full range of services including housing, health care, mental health, chemical dependency services, legal, advocacy, and job training and employment for homeless men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic conditions. Charles served on the governing body of UNAIDS as a member of the NGO Delegation to the PCB and was Co-chair of the NYS End of AIDS Task Force. He is currently the co-chair of the Ending the Epidemic Subcommittee of the NYS AIDS Advisory Council. He also co-chairs ACT Now: End AIDS, a national ending the epidemic Coalition, and co-chairs the Visioning Committee of the National AIDS Housing Coalition. Charles holds both a Law Degree and a Master of Divinity from Yale University and is an ordained Baptist Minister.

Rhonda Roland Shearer, an artist, scholar and award-winning journalist, was Housing Works’ founding donor and founder of the Housing Works Thrift Shops. Shearer is a philanthropist and director of Art Science Research Laboratory, a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit that she co-founded with her late husband, Harvard professor and scientist, Stephen Jay Gould. Through ASRL, a private family foundation, Shearer raised millions of dollars to obtain and distribute urgently needed safety equipment to first responders at Ground Zero and now is sourcing and fundraising to secure personal protective equipment for workers responding to the coronavirus pandemic in New York City. ASRL publishes numerous websites including the award-winning iMediaEthics media ethics news website, the Astrobiology Magazine archive, and the art research website MarcelDuchamp.net.

Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue is a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan at Fifth and Fifty-third.  The parish’s mission is to worship, love and serve our Lord Jesus Christ through the Anglican tradition and our unique choral heritage. St. Thomas Church (typically) offers at least one mass every single day of the year, and a total of twenty services per week, from simple non-choral series to elaborate services featuring the Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys and the Miller-Scott Organ. St. Thomas Church also leads classes and fellowship activities for both children and adults, as well as a concert and organ recital series. The parish includes the Saint Thomas Choir School, which houses, nurtures, and educates the boy choristers, including grades 3 to 8; the Soup Kitchen which (typically) provides bag lunches for the needy in Midtown; and, with Saint Patrick’s and Fifth Avenue Presbyterian, runs the Ecumenical Outreach Partnership which supports the needs of those without homes and others needing social services.


  • Art Science Research Laboratory   info@asrlab.org | 212.925.8812
  • St. Thomas Church 212.757.7013
  • Housing Works: Elizabeth Koke. e.koke@housingworks.org. (646) 342-9350