Led by Rebuilding Together NYC, volunteers from the real estate industry built a greenhouse, created chalk walls, and painted hallways and ceilings for two women’s shelters

Volunteers create chalk surfaces and repaint murals in the shared playground.

More than 22,700 children in New York City will sleep in a homeless shelter tonight.

Since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the city has reached its highest levels of homelessness according to research by the Coalition for the Homeless. In July, there were more than 60,800 homeless people in New York, over three quarters of which were families.

On Thursday, dozens of volunteers from the real estate industry rolled up theirs sleeves and gave hands-on support to families in need of assistance by renovating two womens shelters in Brownsville.

Led by Rebuilding Together NYCs (RT NYC) Women in Real Estate Committee, volunteers undertook repairs and renovations for the two neighboring shelters, including building a greenhouse, creating chalk walls and painting playground equipment, hallways and ceilings. The volunteer iniative was part of the organization’s annual SheBuilds day.

Repainting and sanding surfaces in the shared playground was a big part of operations.

Laurie Grasso, member of the Women in Real Estate Planning Committee and partner at Hunton and Williams LLP,  said that women in the industry convened and discussed how they could give back to the community. She said the committee wanted to do something that involved building, and it was empowering being able to do the renovations for the families living at the shelters.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]You can always give money but when you give your time to something its always more special.”[/perfectpullquote]

We wanted to start with something near and dear to our hearts, which is your home. We wanted to find a way to improve the homes of people that needed our assistance, said Grasso. You can always give money but when you give your time to something its always more special.”

The shelters are operated by Women In Need (Win), the largest provider of shelters for homeless women and children in New York City. The organization served nearly 12,000 homeless people in the past year, including more than 6,600 children. Together, the two Brownsville shelters provide housing for more than 400 individuals and families, mostly women and children.

Volunteers donned safety gear and took to the sky to sand overhead beams.

Win CEO Christine C. Quinn said it was heartening to see so many people were rolling up their sleeves to help improving the facilities for women and children.

Its important to be able to provide safe places for these families to play, learn and grow together, said Quinn.

The number of homeless New Yorkers sleeping each night in municipal shelters is 77 percent higher than it was 10 years ago. Research shows the primary cause of homelessness, especially amongst families, is a lack of affordable housing. RT NYC is a nonprofit housing organization that rehabilitates homes and revitalizes communities by providing free critical home repairs for low-income New Yorkers. It works primarily with the elderly, disabled, veterans, families with small children and survivors of natural disasters.

Team work between organizations was the key to the day’s success.

Rebuilding Together NYC Executive Director Kimberley George said the SheBuilds day was about women harnessing their expertise to help other women.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]People dont realize that 70 percent of our citys homeless population is women and children.”[/perfectpullquote]

People dont realize that 70 percent of our citys homeless population is women and children,” said George. “They think of mostly single men, so we really want to highlight that there is this inequality. As women we need to come together to focus on womens issues.

This was the first SheBuilds day for the Women in Real Estate Committee; excited about the results of their hard work, the ladies are currently discussing further opportunities for them to give back in the future.

Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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