A retired engineer, Thor Andersen works diligently to help homeless individuals and families get back on their feet and find permanent housing. In Westchester County, housing is relatively scarce and expensive so even working families find it difficult to meet their housing expenses on the wages they earn. More than 1,000 households—many of them with children—are living in emergency shelter facilities and the odds against their finding permanent housing are high.
As a member of SHORE (Sheltering the Homeless is Our Responsibility), a volunteer interfaith housing group, Andersen helped renovate two 2-family homes to make rental apartments for four formerly homeless families. Understanding that families need ongoing support in their transition from homelessness back to normal life, he led the search for a qualified social service provider to help. He oversees upkeep and management of the four apartments, remaining "on call" for maintenance emergencies.
For a number of years, Andersen has collected donated furniture and transported it, with the help of other volunteer, to homeless families who have found housing but have few other possessions. He also takes an active part in fundraising events that support all these volunteer activities.
Andersen is currently working on an exciting new SHORE project: construction of 14 affordable mixed ownership and rental townhouse units. He helped present the project to the local government for approval; was active in predevelopment planning and community relations; and, with construction now underway, meets regularly with contractors to review drawings, permits and work progress.
In all these activities, Andersen serves as a catalyst by enrolling the help of other volunteers from SHORE or from his own local church congregation. His presence as a leader and liaison led Andersen's pastor and fellow church members to form a solid support group for the project that makes community action strong and effective. Thanks to his compassion and energy, several families who were previously homeless are now in permanent housing, many others have obtained furniture to set up their homes and the community has a new awareness of an important need and practical solutions.