The controversy surrounding a proposed men’s shelter boiled over last week.
At a Parkchester town hall on Friday, May 3, an angry crowd gathered at St. Helena Church for an informational session about the proposed NYC Department of Homeless Services men’s shelter that is stirring up controversy.
The shelter, to service 165 single homeless men at 2008 Westchester Avenue, would be an employment shelter where the individuals would be working or seeking work.
But the town hall hosted by Senator Luis Sepulveda and Assemblywoman Karines Reyes ended in an uproar and confusion as a sizeable number of the attendees were upset that they were not allowed an opportunity to express their views that the location wasn’t appropriate for a men’s shelter.
Many in the crowd were holding signs reading ‘No Men’s Shelter,’ ‘Protect Our Community,’ and the like.
Sepulveda descended the stage to calm the crowd at the end of the evening and spoke to a few of the frustrated individuals, some of whom had swarmed the stage earlier after hearing the shelter probably couldn’t be stopped.
“There has been a lot of misinformation going back and forth as to what this shelter will be,” the senator said after the town hall. “The intention of the town hall was to clarify information so they have a clear understanding.”
Sepulveda said he believed that certain individuals with an agenda had planned to disrupt the meeting, possibly encouraged by others seeking political gain.
While he said he doesn’t favor the shelter’s site because it is in a congested commercial area, Sepulveda, a lawyer for 30 years, said legally he doesn’t believe a court challenge to the ‘as of right’ shelter plan would prove successful.
Sepulveda said that a rumor claiming sexual predators would be among those living in the shelter when it opens was false. He said DHS screens for sex offenders and places them in a separate shelter.
The senator said he is working behind the scenes to get a more favorable outcome for the community.
“We are very disappointed that things didn’t go as planned,” said a Reyes spokeswoman Glendalys Delgado.
“We wanted to share information with our neighbors that was given to us by DHS and the provider, but unfortunately we weren’t able to get that information relayed because of the uproar,” she continued
Town hall attendee Afzal Helal feared that women and children would be disrespected by the shelter residents.
“This community doesn’t want a single men’s shelter,” said another attendee Syed Kasru. “They are not against shelters, but they want this one somewhere else in the Bronx.”
Annabel Palma, former councilwoman, represented DHS at the town hall.
“Every neighborhood across New York City has a part to play in addressing this citywide challenge,” stated DHS spokesperson Arianna Fishman. “The city and not-for-profit social service provider partner Samaritan Village are moving forward with opening this facility as soon as possible to give individuals experiencing homelessness from the Bronx the opportunity to be closer to the communities they called home as they get back on their feet.”