A company that provides transitional housing for the homeless has introduced a proposal for a facility in Van Nest, and residents are pushing back.
Metro Safe Housing, a for-profit company that was formed in early 2014, recently presented plans to turn a four-family house on Taylor Avenue into an Emergency Placement Unit for individuals referred by NYC Human Resources Administration.
After the plans were brought by Metro Safe Housing to members of Community Board 11, the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance organized a protest, imploring that the neighborhood “Invest in families, not facilities.”
The goal of the protest was to raise awareness in the neighborhood about the plans for the facility, said VNNA vice president Bernadette Ferrara, and the group collected more than 175 signatures in protest and sent the petition to the community board and local elected officials.
Fred Aldehari, CEO of Metro Safe Housing, said he felt disrespected by the protest, which he said left fliers all over the property in question. His company, which currently has four other facilities in the Bronx, is trying to provide a good service, he said.
“Our mission is to provide quality, safe housing for those in need,” said Aldehari.
Metro Safe Housing screens the individuals who are referred by HRA, said Aldehari, and they choose only people who would be a good fit for their home.
Beyond that, he said residents agree to a strict code-of-conduct, which includes curfews, and the facility maintains a no-tolerance policy of illegal activities.
“They earn the right to be there every day by sticking to our strict honor code,” he said.
He said he feels the facility, with his involvement and security cameras, can improve the condition of the block they’re on.
“I thought it would be something beneficial,” he said “The neighborhood looks like it needs help.”
But Ferrara and fellow VNNA member and Taylor Avenue resident Sharlene Jackson Mendez resent the idea that the neighborhood should be grateful for the facility.
The community is vulnerable, said Ferarra, and a facility isn’t a good fit for the neighborhood that’s trying to improve. Jackson said the area has already shouldered their fair share of facilities.
“If program after program moves in, it won’t be a neighborhood any more, it’ll be a transient population,” said Jackson.
They’re also not convinced that Metro Safe Housing can keep out potentially dangerous residents.
“I don’t believe they know enough about the people they’re accepting,” said Mendez.
Ferrara pointed to the company’s short track record, which makes her worried that they haven’t had to deal with significant problems as they arise, and said she does not trust the company.
“I’m not a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” said Aldehari.
Jackson said she plans to continue fighting the arrival of the facility.
“The people in the community are not going to accept it,” said Ferrara. “He needs to go somewhere else.”
Ardehali said that while he’s not inclined to give up easily, the plans for the Taylor Avenue facility are not a done deal.
“It’s still up in the air,” he said.