The Department of Homeless Services wants to move NYC families off the street. Community Board 2 and Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo want DHS to let Hunts Point and Longwood be.
DHS, Arroyo and CB2 are at loggerheads. The trouble started in October, when CB2 chairman Roberto Garcia received a note from the Volunteers of America. VOA sent the note to inform CB2 that it would be responding to a DHS request for proposals to manage a stand-alone homeless shelter at 731 Southern Boulevard. According to the missive, the building’s owner suggested the arrangement to VOA. DHS followed up with a similar note in November. Garcia was surprised. DHS didn’t ask CB2 to recommend a homeless services provider; DHS didn’t ask CB2 to approve a Longwood shelter.
“The people at DHS – they just don’t get it,” Garcia said.
According to spokeswoman Linda Bazerjian, DHS is happy to meet with community board members to discuss the shelter notification process and specific sites. DHS request for proposals are accessible online, she said.
Where proposed shelter sites involve city land, community boards are consulted. Where sites involve private land, community boards play no formal role. Homeless services providers like VOA operate city shelters. For example, DHS will pay VOA to manage 731 Southern Boulevard. In most cases, homeless services providers deal directly with building owners.
According to Garcia, Longwood is shelter-full. As of 2008, there were seven residential DHS facilities in Community District 2.
“We at the community board know the neighborhood,” Garcia said. “Give us condos and co-ops instead. Give us affordable housing so we can fight homelessness.”
Arroyo sent DHS Commissioner Robert Hess a note requesting that he distribute shelters among the city’s neighborhoods equally. Longwood remains poor in part because it’s home to a number of shelters, Arroyo wrote. According to Bazerjian, DHS doesn’t target specific boroughs or neighborhoods; 35 percent of the city’s shelters are located in the Bronx. The ongoing economic crisis has tested the shelter system.
In February, CB2 voted to oppose the shelter at 731 Southern Boulevard. In March, Hess sent Garcia a letter; DHS would permit VOA to open the shelter, he wrote.
On May 12, Garcia received a second letter from VOA, announcing that it would be responding to a request for proposals to manage a stand-alone shelter at 1075 Hall Place. Garcia was surprised again. South Bronx Regional High School sits a block from 1075 Hall Place. So does Horseshoe Park.
According to VOA housing director Cara Pace, 1075 Hall Avenue has been a shelter since 2007. No homeless reside at 731 Southern Boulevard yet. VOA staff will attend CB2 meetings.
“I think the neighborhood is great,” Pace said.
According to Garcia, the building owners who lease to homeless service providers are getting fat on taxpayer money. The average per diem apartment rent at 1075 Hall Avenue and 731 Southern Boulevard is $90, Bazerjian said.