Fighting homelessness with beer: ‘Happy Hour for the Homeless’ underway at area bars

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MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. — On any given night in Monroe County, the National Alliance to End Homelessness says there are about 750 people without a home. Ahead of World Homeless Day on Oct. 10, bars in Rochester are putting out donation bins and raising money to change that.

All week ending on Oct. 10, different bars every night are holding a “Happy Hour for the Homeless.” For every beer purchased, one dollar will go to local organizations that help fight homelessness.

Participating bars are in and around Rochester. Some venues are less traditional, like custom candle shop Scents by Designs. To see a full list of who’s participating and when, click here.

The entire month, Nine Spot Brewing, Sager Stoneyard Pub, Three Heads Brewing, and Lovin’ Cup will have donation bins out.

“It’s a great way to get our name out there and to show that we do care about our customers and we do care about our community and we want to make Rochester a great city for everybody,” Lovin’ Cup manager Anya Piskorowski said.

It’s organized by BeerPass Roc, a kind of local rewards program for beer aficionados. Also at the helm is the now-Rochester-based “Batman of San Jose,” a man who keeps his identity secret while working to help those on the streets, any way he can.

This year’s nonprofits benefitting are Recovery All Ways (RAW) and Person Centered Housing Options (PCHO). Every Sunday, RAW sets up shop on a street corner to make connections with those experiencing homelessness.

“Rain, shine, covid lockdowns, we’re out there, because homelessness doesn’t stop because it’s after hours,” said Stephanie Forrester, RAW’s founder.

PCHO provides housing and care management services.

“Homelessness runs a wide gauntlet of multiple pathways […] Going out, finding people engaging them building relationships, developing a plan is all part of building trust,” co-founder Nicholas Coulter said. “And when you build trust with folks, you really are successful with your process.”

Forrester works with both RAW and PCHO. A Fairport native, she was homeless from age 16 through her early 30s, and struggling with substance abuse issues.

“There were times I would sleep on porches, I would sleep at bus stations, and abandoned buildings,” she said. “It’s scary, it’s hard to get through, it’s hard to get through normal life.”

Now seven years sober, she works with groups dedicated to helping people get back on their feet.

“Things that I needed that I was out there – being an additional support, boots on the ground and just loving people where they’re at,” she said.

Coulter emphasized that homelessness can take many forms, and isn’t just a problem for those living in the city. Forrester also touched on this, saying that she believes the majority of people in the Rochester area are one paycheck, medical bill, or financial misstep away from experiencing homelessness.

“There are people who are homeless who are getting up and going to work,” she added. “It’s not just people who are dealing with substance use disorder or mental health issues. It’s literally anyone in our community. It’s the elderly, it’s people who have experienced medical emergencies because they don’t have the funds and their bills stacked up while they were in the hospital. There’s so many different ways that can lead you to experiencing this.”