On Wednesday, February 6, Community Board 7 chair, Adaline Walker-Santiago, received official notice that the proposed location of an all male homeless shelter has changed.
In a sign of relief for the community, she was informed by the NYC Department of Homeless Services that the shelter, which was initially planned for a location across the street from P.S./M.S.20 and a park, would now be constructed in a more appropiate location.
“I think they heard our outcry,” said Walker-Santiago, who was one of the community members at the September 19 rally protesting the initial location of the shelter at the former Sam’s Carpet on Webster Avenue.
“I think the Bronx is doing its share to help the homeless and we know there’s a crisis, but we also want to be sure (the shelter) is not directly across the street from a school.”
The major concern about the Webster Avenue location was its close proximity to children. Shelter residents are transient, so it’s difficult to know if someone from the shelter is a registered sex offender.
Acknowledging the borough and citywide housing crisis, CB 7 proposed an alternative location to the DHS.
The all-male shelter is currently being placed at the former FEGS Bronx Mental Health Center at 3600 Jerome Avenue.
“Because homeless New Yorkers come from every community across the five boroughs, we need every community to come together to address homelessness and Community District 7 heard the call to action,” said DHS spokesperson, Isaac McGinn.
“Through collaborative support and compassion, we will make this the best experience it can be for these individuals as they get back on their feet.”
The new location for the site on Jerome Avenue was considered because of its proximity to public transportation, including the IRT #4 train, to make travel easier for those trying to commute to and from jobs or those trying to find work.
“I’m proud we were able to work collaboratively, that DHS is willing to treat communities like they’re responsible and can make responsible decisions,” said Councilman Andrew Cohen, who had also been supporting the community in trying to get DHS to change their initial location for the shelter.
“There can be an outcome that works for people who are homeless and that works for the community at large,” Cohen added.
At the new location, DHS will be working with Bronx Works, a local not-for-profit geared toward helping people improve their economic and social wellbeing, according to the group’s mission statement.
The building of this shelter is part of the overall citywide strategy to address homelessness while also preventing it from happening.
There are 163 homeless cluster units across 16 sites in CB 7 alone, according to the DHS spokesperson.
The city has planned to end the use of all the homeless cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities citywide to make way for more affordable housing opportunities and high-quality shelters so those facing housing issues can remain in their communities and close to support networks, according to the DHS spokesperson.