Community members worry about homeless shelter in Wakefield

Community members worry about homeless shelter in Wakefield
Residents fear this building at 4747 Bronx Boulevard could become another homless shelter.
Photo Courtesy of Steve Goodstein

Residents in Community Board 12 are worried about a potential homeless shelter coming to 4747 Bronx Boulevard.

During a June 27 CB12 meeting, residents were wondering how another shelter could be placed in their neighborhood.

The issue surrounding the over saturation of homeless shelters has been in the news for the past few years.

It gained more traction after the shooting death of former Bronx resident Anna Charle.

Charle, director of the Project Renewal homeless shelter, was shot in 2015 allegedly by a shelter resident, 40-year-old West Spruill.

Following the shooting many community leaders cried out against the number of homeless shelters in the area and the lack of safety for the neighborhoods in which the shelters are.

George Torres, district manager for board, said “the community has always been fighting to not have these kinds of facilities.”

Torres said the issue is not specifically the homeless shelter’s but that the community feels ‘put upon’ since they receive requests for the facilities very often.

According to Torres, he and Councilman Andy Cohen met with the owners of the potential facility – Comunilife – in January.

Comunilife is a home healthcare service that provides care for low-income individuals and people suffering from HIV or AIDS.

Torres said that if the facility became a homeless shelter it would be a zoning violation.

He explained the building, which is currently under construction, has been advertised as a hotel.

However, Torres and community members believe the facility will become a homeless shelter.

The district manager said 4747 Bronx Boulevard is in an M11 zone that, per zoning laws, would allow a hotel but not a ‘community care facility’ such as a homeless shelter.

Therefore, Torres said if the building’s owners begin moving homeless people into what was supposed to be a hotel, community leaders can begin a legal battle based on the premise of a violated zoning law.

Initially during the meeting, residents believed the facility was going to be a HASA facility, meaning it would house clients suffering from HIV and AIDS.

Those in attendance said 4747 Bronx Boulevard is near the 241st Street and Wakefield train stop that is known for prostitute activity.

They questioned how dangerous it would be to have HIV and AIDS patients near that station.

Community board member Frank Sotomayor later said at the meeting that, after meeting with owners of the facility on June 24, he was informed the facility would not be a HASA facility.

Torres said this was good news and one less thing for the community to worry about.

However, Councilman Cohen said residents must “not take their foot off the gas” and continue to battle against the oversaturation of homeless shelters in the area.

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