City Councilmember Oswald Feliz and the Fordham area’s Community Board 6 are calling on the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to put the kibosh on a proposed safe haven on Webster Avenue — reserved for 42 unsheltered New Yorkers — citing an overabundance of homeless shelters in the area.
DHS and CB6 would not confirm the address of the safe haven site, but the Bronx Times learned that the location of the facility is slated for the 2400 block of Webster Avenue.
The safe haven, according to community board officials, would be the 24th DHS facility in the area.
DHS officials told the Bronx Times that the “most effective way” to address unsheltered homelessness is to provide specialized beds. However, Feliz, a Democrat whose district encompasses the Fordham section, believes DHS’ current model is warehousing shelters in low-income neighborhoods.
CB6 officials want DHS to consider creating a ZIP code-based request for proposals (RFP) system for shelters, like many other city RFPs.
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 just 6 square miles.
Community boards do not have a formal review process for shelters. The Bronx Times previously reported that DHS notifies communities of their shelter plans at least 30 days before a potential opening, and under the Turning the Tide plan have provided a combined average of 259 days notice.
The 10 community districts with the highest concentration of these homeless 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 predominately Black and brown communities.
About 15,000 school-aged children — the 4-17 age range — stay in city shelters each night.
In a letter to DHS Commissioner Gary Jenkins, Feliz says that his Council District 15 has more than 20 shelters — 10 in a half-mile radius — and one of the highest poverty rates in the city, and argues that the volume is overwhelming the district’s school systems and handicapping affordable development growth in the area.
The proposed safe haven is set to be owned and operated by The Bridge, a not-for-profit with a long history of service provision to clients experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
One of the biggest efforts by DHS has been to prevent the clustering of homeless shelters in the 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. DHS data doesn’t give the full scope of homelessness, as it doesn’t account for facilities such as faith-based, youth centers and overnight drop-in centers, which excludes an estimated 4,000 New Yorkers who sleep on the street each night.
A joint public meeting of CB 5 — which also includes the Fordham area — CB6 and Feliz’s office is being planned for February to seek public input.
The Bronx Times reached out to Councilmember Feliz for comment and is awaiting his response.
Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.