The young man who set up a makeshift camp in the woods off Route 105 and took the extension cords and lights from the holiday display set up at the “Welcome to Flanders” sign on the corner there is “anything but homeless,” according to Sr. Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate.
Contacted by a reporter Sunday and provided with a photo of the Social Security card in a wallet found inside the tent by Flanders residents Ron Fisher and Susan Tocci, Smyth said she thought she knew the young man’s mother and would look into it.
On Monday afternoon, Smyth contacted RiverheadLOCAL to say she’d confirmed that her suspicion had been on target.
“He’s exactly who I though he was — and he’s anything but homeless. He has a bed, a home and a family. He’s a 19-year-old who had a fight with his mother and took off,” she said. Smyth said his house was “very close by the tent he set up over there, a short walk.”
The nun, who runs a longstanding program assisting the local Hispanic population, cautioned against helping the young man live in the woods.
“Don’t be getting empathic,” Smith urged. She said she’d read the story published in RiverheadLOCAL on Sunday and said the residents’ inclination to provide him with food and blankets is “the worst thing you could do.”
Susan Tocci, one of the Flanders residents who helped redecorate the area Saturday after the lights and extension cords were removed — twice in two days — said last night she’d brought some food and a sleeping bag to the site yesterday morning. The man was not there, but she left her gifts behind.
He’s been in and out of trouble, according to Smyth, who said she knows his mother well and knows him, too.
“He needs to take responsibility for himself and do the right thing,” Smyth said.
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