Bronx homeless shelter residents in fear as COVID-19 measures feel insufficient

Susan’s Place, a homeless shelter for women in the Bronx. (Google Street View)

By Mark Hallum

A resident at a Bronx homeless shelter says conditions could not be worse with crowding and coronavirus cases as the epidemic nears its apex for the state of New York.

At Susan’s Place, a woman’s shelter, a resident said that not only were homeless people is subjected to dense living conditions, but sanitary supplies are not distributed, but the city Department of Homeless Services denied the claim and denied amNewYork Metro’s request for the correct information.

“Residents don’t get hand sanitizer, alcohol or masks. 11 cases of COVID-19 are reported. This shelter has 8 rooms with 22 beds each average. No social distance inside of the dorms. People who run the shelter are not providing housing for residents, rather they hold them for long periods of time – I am talking about years,” the resident told amNewYork Metro.

According to DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn, there have been measures to protect staff in the form of 100,000 masks being secured while 700 isolation units for symptomatic and confirmed positive folks are options at the agency’s disposal.

As for the 11 cases at Susan’s Place? McGinn said it is untrue but was tightlipped about the real figure.

“While we don’t disclose number of cases by sites, I can tell you: that number is flat out wrong. You have our accurate, vetted, verified numbers. The 11 is NOT accurate. Period,” DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn said.

Across the shelter system as of April 6, DHS said there are 247 total positive cases they tracking, and this included 219 among those in shelters. Only 12 cases have been confirmed by DHS among the homeless outside of the shelter system.

Of the 247 cases, DHS said there had been 13 deaths.

But this is not the first cry for help that has come from the homeless New Yorkers within the city’s shelter system.

In late March, another resident came forward claiming Northstar Family Residence in Long Island City was not facilitating social distancing measures.

“There are other people living in the building with respiratory problems, diabetes, and other illnesses,” an anonymous resident told QNS. “At this time we are still being told that we must eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the cafeteria with 20 to 30 other people. We are also told if we take our food upstairs we will get written up.”

Northstar also has a controversial history, it was formerly the Fairfield Inn and was converted into a 154-unit shelter in May 2018.

DHS said it is working to adjust its policies across all 450 shelters it oversees – usually through service providers – in consideration of the health crisis.

More from Around NYC