The temperatures are cold, but Jess Beck is driven.
“I just feel for all the people that don’t have a place to get warm,” Beck said.
The documentarian has lived in the East Village on and off for 25 years. Inspired by her Holocaust survivor grandfather to sharpen her filmmaking on immigration, she now helps migrants at the former St. Brigid School who are applying for temporary housing.
“People’s circumstances are based around the sheer luck of where you’re born,” she said. “No one deserves to have a place to live more than anyone else.”
On this day, she’s handing out warm food with EVLoves NYC, a nonprofit organization born out of the pandemic. Earlier this month, she raised more than $8,000 to help the group increase their meal giveaways.
“I’m really in awe of all the people that live in this neighborhood and how much they want to help,” she said.
Ever the writer, Beck started an Instagram page introducing migrants outside St. Brigid to the neighborhood.
“A lot of people walk by and they just see a line full of people in need and they don’t see the humans that are standing there and their stories,” she said. “So I wanted to break down a barrier.”
“We don’t have anywhere to stay, we don’t have a place to eat, and they are helping us here. Thank you very much to you, for real,” Maiky Vargas, a migrant from Venezuela who posed for a photo with Beck, said.
Separately, Beck co-founded her own group called “East Village Neighbors Who Care.” It’s 200 members strong. The group organizes their own distributions and gives migrants a break from the chilly outdoors at a nearby performance space.
“We’re allowing people to spend time in here during the day so that they don’t have serious health problems or hypothermia due to the cold weather,” she said.
It’s a space for migrants to recharge and find compassion.
“I want the people who have come to New York because they want to start a new life here to feel welcome,” she said.
For warmly greeting the city’s migrants, Jess Beck is our New Yorker of the Week.