Citing oversaturation, Bronx pols push for permanent affordable housing in lieu of temporary shelters

One of the city’s latest shelter proposals, planned for 1298 Inwood Ave. in the Mt. Eden section, has prompted calls from Bronxites to facilitate more permanent housing to address homelessness in the borough.
Photo Pablo D. Castillo Jr.

The oversaturation and oversiting of temporary living facilities and homeless shelters has become a divisive issue for Bronx politicos, community boards and residents to tackle amid rising homelessness in the borough.

By their last count in November 2021, the city’s Department of Social Services (DSS) told the Bronx Times that 111 of the city’s 249 transitional living facilities are sited in the Bronx, with high concentrations of shelters in the west and south portions of the Bronx.

Since then shelters have been coming through into community board at a breakneck pace, various community board members shared with the Bronx Times.

One of the city’s latest shelter proposals, planned for 1298 Inwood Ave. in the Mt. Eden section, has prompted calls from Bronxites to facilitate more permanent housing than temporary living facilities to address homelessness in the borough.

The aforementioned homeless shelter is proposed to open by West 170th Street, and local residents have voiced frustrations that their neighborhood has received as an overabundance of shelters in the area, as opposed to the northwest Bronx.
The shelter, if approved, would be in proximity to a school and in a residential area, and DSS said it will serve as a replacement for an older building in the area currently being used to operate a traditional shelter program for families with children experiencing homelessness in the area.
A two-story garage currently occupies the 1298 Inwood Ave. plot and is included in the Large Jerome Avenue Footprint rezoning area. Under the 2018 Jerome Avenue Rezoning, the parcel could be used to create affordable or market-rate housing units, perhaps with a community facility, improved streetscape and active retail on Jerome Avenue at its base.
The 10 community districts with the highest concentration of these shelters are Queens 14, Manhattan 11, Bronx 3/6, Bronx 11, Bronx 8, Bronx 1/2, Bronx 4 and Brooklyn 16, all of which are predominantly Black and brown communities.
“Bronx CB4 is looking not for shelters but for permanent housing for all. In addition to rental housing, Bronx CB4 is looking for residents to have ownership of their dwellings,” said Robert Garméndiz, Bronx Community Board 4 chair.  “Ownership helps stabilize a community that empowers us as well as the future of our families.”
City Councilmember Althea Stevens, whose district includes Mt. Eden, has also been vocal about the city’s reliance on temporary living facilities, in lieu of long-range affordable housing in the area.

“In order to adequately address this issue of homelessness in our community, while providing beneficial value to the existing community, we must continue to work in a collaborative effort to establish permanent housing over temporary housing.” said Stevens at a town hall on June 6.

Citing increasing homelessness among Bronxites, DSS officials told the Bronx Times their facilities are sited to ensure those in the shelter system are close to their support systems and familiar surroundings.

One of the biggest efforts by DSS has been to prevent the clustering of homeless shelters in New York City, a reversal of a 21-year-old Giuliani-era cluster program; the agency said they closed or repurposed 3,650 cluster units completely by Oct. 30, 2021.

DSS data doesn’t give the full scope of homelessness, as it excludes facilities such as faith-based, youth centers and overnight drop-in centers, which also doesn’t account for an estimated 4,000 New Yorkers who sleep on the street each night.

In the west Bronx — a four-community district region that includes Fordham, Belmont, Bedford Park and Kingsbridge — there are 63 shelters within the area’s 21.23 square-mile limits. In South Bronx-based community districts 1, 2 and 3, which span the neighborhoods of Melrose, Hunts Point and Morrisania, 38 facilities are sited within 6 square miles.

Bronx beep Vanessa Gibson said that there has been a historical saturation of family- and single-adult shelters in communities of color, such as CB4, and city administrators need to do a better job of addressing affordable and permanent housing.

“While we are experiencing a homelessness crisis, all communities must do their fair share and the Administration must act in a balanced and responsible way when siting new locations,” Gibson said. “We must focus on the urgent need for affordable and permanent housing and not building expensive shelters for temporary housing. I am adamantly opposed to this latest proposal by the City.”

Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes