Fight against temporary homeless shelters moves to City Hall
by Lisa Fraser
Sep 28, 2011 | 2030 views | 0 0 comments | 56 56 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The fight to keep homeless shelters out of already saturated neighborhoods was taken to City Hall last Wednesday, September 22, when Councilman Stephen Levin held a rally to denounce - once more - the presence of anther homeless shelter in Greenpoint.

Levin was joined by other City Council members, including Charles Barron, Ruben Wills, Leroy Comrie, Daniel Dromm, and Brad Lander, and Assemblyman Joe Lentol, as well as community leaders, who all expressed that the city's Fair Share process is actually being unfair to their neighborhoods.

"The time has come for not continuing the same thing over and over again,” Assemblyman Joe Lentol said as he talked down temporary shelter housing for the homeless. “Either we don't care or we don't learn.”

Lentol and Levin, both vocal about not having another homeless shelter in Greenpoint, particularly now that hotelier Shimmie Horn has purchased property at 400 McGuinness Boulevard to turn it into a shelter, stressed that temporary shelters are not the direction the city needs to take to solve the homeless problem.

“It's time the city lives up to its responsibility and build permanent housing for the people who are homeless,” Lentol said. “That's the answer to the problem, not shelters.”

Other elected officials also called for fair placement of shelters and for permanent housing to be considered, especially since the Advantage program, which once helped homeless families get back on the path to permanent housing, was cut.

Wills and Comrie, who both represent southeast Queens, stressed the need to bring affordable housing to the Jamaica area, where about 70 percent of the homeless population of Queens is housed.

“Within the last year, the city tried to place three shelters in downtown Jamaica and we have four right now that we are trying to control,” Comrie said. “It's unfair. There is oversaturation in particular areas. We need to make sure there's a fair share and that the city is not overloading and destabilizing certain communities.”

Noting the fact that more families are entering the shelter system than ever before, Levin questioned why the Department of Homeless Services would quickly site a building like the one at 400 McGuinness Boulevard to be used as a shelter.

“Why see this as a time to contract out nonpermanent facilities that don't provide a path to get [people] back on their feet?” Levin said.

Levin has called for Comptroller John Liu to investigate the DHS's dealings with Horn. Horn also purchased three other buildings in various sections of Brooklyn, which were immediately sited by the DHS as shelters.

A spokesman for Horn has noted that he has “absolutely no contractual relationship whatsoever with the Department of Homeless Services.”

“Rather, Mr. Horn contracts directly with the non-profits that assist those looking to put a roof over the heads,” said Stefan Friedman, Horn's spokesman. “As there is no contractual relationship between Mr. Horn and DHS, any suggestion of an inappropriate relationship is patently absurd.”

But Christopher Olechowski, chair of Brooklyn's Community Board 1, calls it, “a classic example of class warfare.”

“They are callous to the needs of the community,” he said.

The DHS held a meeting in Greenpoint to discuss with the residents the potential siting of the building at 400 McGuinness Boulevard earlier in the year. But Olechowski and other community residents feel that the agency is not really concerned with the community's reservations about another homeless shelter in the area.

Barron stated that the elected officials would continue to hold protests at City Hall until the city hears and responds to their calls.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet