Parents and teachers were surprised to discover a homeless shelter across the street from P.S. 8 last December. Turns out they’re not alone.
Last October, Henry Perry found a security guard checking homeless families into 15-19 W. Mosholu Parkway North, now home to a scatter-site homeless shelter. Trouble is, Perry and his neighbors hadn’t a clue. The city, landlord and shelter administrator failed to notify 15-19’s permanent tenants.
“We didn’t realize what was going on,” Perry said, “A few nights before, I met a group of people moving in. One woman told me, ‘We’re homeless.’ I thought she was kidding.”
On Tuesday, February 17, Community Board 7 voted to send the Department of Homeless Services a message. The board will ask DHS to relocate its 3001 Briggs scatter-site shelter, the one across from P.S. 8.
DHS recently launched an investigation of 3001 Briggs. Housing activists have charged the building’s Brooklyn landlord, Miller Management, with pushing permanent tenants out. If that’s the case, DHS will abandon the building.
Homeless housing non-profit Aguila Inc. holds the DHS contract for 3001 Briggs. Last December, homeless families arrived. Rumors ricocheted around Bedford Park. Were child molesters moving in? Drug addicts? More than 100 neighbors attended a CB7 housing committee meeting. Aguila Inc. director Peter Rivera called his failure to notify P.S. 8 an oversight.
“It wasn’t his first oversight,” Perry said.
DHS hasn’t received complaints from permanent tenants at 15-19, an agency spokeswoman said. But Perry has hounded the Department of Buildings since landlord Lev Management acquired the building in 2006.
Perry, a 15-19 tenant since 1963, phoned 311 when Lev Management began renovations. DOB told Perry his landlord didn’t need a construction permit – that Lev Management was fixing floorboards, something Perry disputes.
In July, August and September Perry phoned 311 to report fires. According to Perry, half the building’s tenants have left or been evicted since 2006. A man who asked that his name not be published believes Lev Management wants rent-paying tenants to leave.
“I get the feeling I’m not desired here,” the man said. “My hallway lights are out. There are bugs in my apartment. From what I hear, the city pays $3000 for a one bedroom. I pay $950.”
DHS’ scatter-site program has drawn fire from activists. The program is expensive, they claim, and counterproductive. In 2004, the Bronx hosted 189 scatter-site shelters, Manhattan zero.
“What homeless people need is affordable housing,” Perry said. “Real homeless advocates fight for rent regulation. Forcing us onto the street to make way for a shelter doesn’t solve anything.”
Perry will urge CB7 to seek a moratorium on scatter-site shelters. The board’s housing chair, Anthony Springer, called Aguila’s secret moves disrespectful.
Perry isn’t against shelters, nor is CB7. But 15-19 is louder and dirtier now, according to longtime renter Deonarine Srikishun.
“We have bad people coming and going – drug dealing,” Srikishun said.
DHS doesn’t mandated community notification for scatter-site shelters. But the agency has decided to change its policy. When DHS fills more than half a building, it will issue notification. Miller Management, Lev Management and Aguila Inc. hadn’t responded to phone calls as of press time.
©2009 Community News Group