Homeless people have been seen staying at the Pelham Bay #6 IRT train station and sleeping in bathrooms, according to area residents.
To ensure that the train station remains a safe place for commuters, NYC Department of Homeless Services will be stepping up patrols of the area.
“Outreach will be visiting the area with increased frequency, including overnight hours, in response to the community’s concerns,” said Heather Janik, a spokeswoman with the department. “The team will also be checking the bathrooms, and other areas for individuals in need.”
On August 12, department officials toured the station, along with officials from BronxWorks (a group that works with the city department to provide the majority of the homeless rehabilitation services), Community Board 10 and Senator Jeff Klein’s office.
Although the tour group did not find any homeless individuals during the walk-thru, many in the community are concerned.
Anita Valenti, of the Pelham Bay Taxpayers Association, said she first heard about the homeless at the station a few months ago.
“They’re sleeping on the benches and on the grounds,” she said. “It’s best to try and nip this in the bud.”
She said the association is looking to invite BronxWorks to their September 20 meeting.
Kenneth Kearns, district manager of Community Board 10, said although the board has not received many complaints about the station, he has seen homeless in the area frequently.
“It’s a problem every year during the summer,” he said. “They gravitate to that area so they can stay at Pelham Bay Park. Some get involved in aggressive panhandling and anti-social behavior.”
He said for several years the community board has been working with BronxWorks to help the homeless that come to the area by providing the resources they need to get off the streets.
“When we see them we have an obligation to give them access to these services,” he said. “BronxWorks has done an excellent job in assisting these individuals to get into supportive programs, and helping them with what they need.”
According to the DHS, statistics show that homelessness in the Bronx has decreased about 70 percent since 2005.
But despite the decline, officials are continuing to monitor the area.
“My office, in coordination with members of Community Board 10, conducted a walk-thru visit with DHS officials at Pelham Bay Station to raise awareness of the growing homeless population that exists there,” said Klein. “As we work to find a safe and suitable alternative for the homeless, my office -along with local law enforcement- will continue to monitor the situation to ensure the safety of all residents commuting through the Pelham Bay station day and night.”
The DHS urges people to work with local precincts if panhandling, which does not necessarily denote homelessness, continues to be a problem.