The Community Board 3 Housing and Land Use Committee approved a letter of support last week for a temporary safe haven shelter that would house 15 men and 15 women.
Luis Laboy, program director of chemical dependence at the Emma Bowen Community Service Center, a Manhattan-based nonprofit, presented the organization’s plans, on Oct. 18, to relocate one of its facilities to 1548 Bryant Ave., in the South Bronx.
Bowen, which has existed for more than 30 years, had a safe haven shelter Addicts Benefitting from a Loving Environment House (ABLE) in Harlem for people that have completed inpatient services and need help finding employment, education, medical services and housing. But since its lease ran out in 2019, they have been paying month to month and have also had to turn away clients. If the proposed expansion into the Bronx is approved, Laboy told the committee that they would be able to increase their bed capacity from 20 to 30 people.
“We want to come into a community and provide services where they are needed,” Laboy said. “I don’t want to move into a community without approval or support. Our goal is to help [people] become self-sufficient and independent.”
Safe haven shelters are the first step for chronic homeless individuals to seek help. Safe havens are available to the homeless population to come and go with no restrictions. The hope is that the individuals will eventually want to address their overall situation, which could come in the form of taking medication, seeking sobriety and/or seeking permanent shelter. One’s stay at a safe haven shelter could last anywhere from six months to a year and a half, where they are transferred to supportive housing or permanent housing.
Laboy, who is also the chair of the Bronx Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse Disorders, told the committee expanding to the Bronx is important as the opioid epidemic has increased the need for services in the Bronx. To that end, over the past decade, 94 ABLE residents have come from the borough.
The proposed site at 1548 Bryant Ave., is a vacant three-family house and Bowen is working with the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (OASAS) to purchase the property from a private owner and sign a three-year lease with a long-term goal of having a permanent facility in the Crotona area of the Bronx. Also, the number of case managers to clients would be one to four and people do not need to have insurance or be documented to come.
“We would like to partner with Bronx CB 3,” Laboy said. “We want to bring our many years of community service to an area and become part of a community. We don’t want to be like all those other developers and build without permission. We’re going to be an asset to the community.”
Committee members Gina Newton and Vlad Cruz supported Bowen’s interest in coming to the Bronx. While some argue that the Bronx is oversaturated with such facilities, other countered that a place like Bowen is important in helping people turn their lives around.
Newton said Bowen’s more than 30 years of service show it has a proven track record.
“This type of facility helps alleviate the type of cancer we’re experiencing in the city,” she said. “When we recognize programs that actually work, I think it’s our obligation as a community board to support them.”
However, Paul Navarro, another committee member, said although he understands that Bowen is a good program, he feels the community is already filled with similar facilities. Navarro questioned if the ABLE program was successful, why then it didn’t continue in Harlem.
“It’s about time these programs look in other areas,” he said.
The full CB3 board will vote on the proposed letter of support at a meeting later this month.
Reach Jason Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 260-4598. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bronxtimes.