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Days After Man Found Dead in Mattituck Woods, Questions Remain

Some homeless only come out of the woods to seek shelter on the coldest of nights, local advocates said.

Days after the body of a deceased Hispanic male was discovered by Southold Town Police in a wooded area near the Long Island Railroad tracks west of Factory Avenue in Mattituck, police are still searching for answers.

Police said Wednesday that so far, the man has not been identified and no further information has become available.

Police officers responded to a report on Jan. 20 of an apparent deceased male subject in the wooded area and discovered the body of a Hispanic male at this location who appears to have been homeless, police said.

Southold detectives and the Suffolk County Medical Examiner's Office initiated an investigation into the death, which police said did not appear to be suspicious.

Locally, advocates for the homeless speculated about what could have happened.

Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate in Riverhead said no one is sure yet exactly what transpired, or if the individual was even really homeless.

While at times, some of the seasonal immigrant workers who no longer have employment in the area during cold winter months have approached Smyth for help, she said this year, she has not received many requests for assistance or for airfare home to the workers' countries of origin.

If the man was homeless, as police said, Smyth said often, those who choose to live outside suffer from mental issues or alcoholism. 

"It's rare you can break the habit of someone living outside," she said, adding that if they were not suffering from substance abuse or mental problems, the homeless would know to seek shelter at area programs such as Maureen's Haven, a collaboration of area churches that provides food and shelter during the cold winter months.

Tracey Lutz, executive director of the Maureen's Haven Homeless Outreach program, said while she does not know the identity of the individual found dead, there are a "handful" of homeless guests who seek shelter on the "most freezing" of winter nights.

"One couple came in yesterday and I asked them where they were on Monday night with the snow," she said. "He said they stayed in their tent and that it is relatively warm with double tarps and lots of blankets. These are indeed the free spirits who manage to survive somehow."

Another man, Lutz said, told her he had been sleeping in his truck; she urged him to utilize the services of Maureen's Haven and he said he would consider the option.

"Some of the guests do have cats and they tend to stay in the tents to care for them," Lutz added.

ABetterWayforRiverhead January 23, 2013 at 06:23 PM
The author neglected to mention that John's Place Homeless Outreach provides services to those who are homeless on Tuesday evenings at St. Agnes RC in Greenport and on Thursdays at Mattituck Presbyterian during the winter months. These sights tend to host the highest number of guests since the two sights offer hot showers and clothes closets. FYI: "Rockin for the Homeless" takes place this Saturday evening, January 26th at the Riverhead Polish Hall. Festivities begin at 6:00pm and tickets are still available at the door. This year's Rockin' event will benefit John's Place at Mattituck and Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts.
Erin Schultz January 23, 2013 at 09:05 PM
Tess Bannon said on Facebook: "Tell them to contact MaryHaven. Services for the homeless"

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