When Parkchester residents were notified at a recent town hall meeting about a planned 165-person men’s shelter proposed for 2008 Westchester Avenue, their response was less than welcoming.
Community members packed the gym of St. Helena’s School on Friday, April 12 to attend a town hall hosted by Community Board 9 in which the plan was explained.
The CB 9 district manager, William Rivera, said that notification was received from the NYC Department of Homeless Services Friday, February 22 of an ‘employment shelter’ for 165 single men that are working or looking for work.
The DM said that the siting is part of the city’s Turning the Tide program to address homelessness.
“I think we had a good turnout,” said Rivera of the meeting, adding that he has sent questions to DHS to get more information and that he expects the board to come together by the next CB 9 full board meeting after a rally, another information session with DHS and Daytop Village, and two board meetings with DHS officials to make an informed decision on possibly sending a letter to the appropriate agencies expressing its views.
The operator of the proposed shelter would be Samaritan Village, who referred all questions to the DHS.
Rivera said at the April 12 meeting that the shelter may also available to individuals who might have been convicted of lower level sex crimes.
During the St. Helena town hall, Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr. pledged to hold a rally against the shelter siting, which will happen outside of the shelter’s site on Monday, April 29 at 6:30 p.m.
Assemblywoman Karines Reyes started a petition to demand zero sex offenders at the new facility in response to the crowd’s reaction.
Christina Ramos, a mother of a young child who lives near the proposed shelter, and attended the meeting, said she takes her child for walks, and doesn’t believe the shelter would be conducive to a safe environment.
Senator Luis Sepulveda is planning to host a follow up meeting with the community, along with Reyes, at St. Helena’s Church on Friday, May 3 from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
The senator is co-hosting the informational meeting with the project’s co-sponsors DHS and Samaritan Village.
“When people hear the words homeless shelter, it is uncomfortable and controversial, but I have always said that people have a right to housing…that’s my guiding principal,” Sepulveda said.
Since the shelter is being built as an ‘as-of-right’ project which doesn’t require any special permits, the senator said he doesn’t believe that rallies or protests against the shelter will be productive because the city isn’t going to pull back and there is no way legally to stop it, he said.
Rather than an all-out fight, the senator would like to control the type of shelter going into the location.
He would like to see a shelter for families or possibly low income housing, he said.
“Let’s get something the community could work with, rather than going out there and protesting something coming anyway,” said Sepulveda.
DHS spokeperson, Arianna Fishman, said that the agency wants to emphasize it is an employment shelter, and that the new shelter ushers in an era of phasing out stop-gap measures of the past by opening high-quality new sites.