Wealthy residents in the Upper West Side hired a lawyer and are currently in a legal battle to force a homeless shelter out of their community — a starkly different situation than the one happening in the blue collar Bronx neighborhood of Wakefield.
In May, the NYC Department of Homeless services reneged on a promise to not turn 4747 Bronx Blvd. into a homeless shelter, without so much as an email to local stakeholders.
In 2016, the city nixed plans to build a shelter for people with HIV after outcries from the public. Residents were told this was a temporary shelter due to COVID-19, yet nearly seven months later, it is still there.
Community Board 12 is home to four homeless shelters, and the area was recently targeted for two additional 200 bed shelters — one at East 233rd Street and the other at Furman Avenue. On Oct. 21, the Wakefield Taxpayers & Civic League held a rally against homeless shelters.
“This is where we live, why are they dumping all of these shelters here?” exclaimed Virginia Sanders president of the civic. “Please somebody listen to us. We don’t need this.”
Sanders stressed that homeless people need more than a temporary fix like 4747 Bronx Blvd. Instead, they need substantive living arrangements and services to get their lives on track.
According to Sanders and other residents, the people staying there disrupt the quality of life in the neighborhood by urinating and defecating in the street, doing drugs outside and treating residents “like second class citizens.”
Fellow civic association member Adeyemi LaCrown Oloruntoba expressed a similar disgust with the amount of shelters in Wakefield.
According to Oloruntoba, the Department of Health and Human Services has not shown Wakefield any respect. He said that no one is against homeless people, but residents are against having the area oversaturated with shelters.
“What we see going on in this community, we don’t like it,” he shouted. “Don’t use our neighborhood to be a dumping ground for homeless shelters. That place was meant to be a hotel, not a homeless shelter.”
Resident Carlton Berkley shared his frustrations with the Bronx Times. Berkley has sat in on meeting with CB12 District Manager George Torres and DHS, which Berkley said has not been transparent and refused to say when the people at 4747 Bronx Blvd. are leaving.
Berkley felt if the agency gave an exact date, it would provide some comfort to residents.
“We don’t want Wakefield to be the homeless capital of NYC,” he said. “We want affordable housing.”