Letter: There’s more to the White Plains Road shelter story

white plains road shelter
A planned White Plains Road homeless shelter has been nixed by the city.
Photo Adrian Childress

To the Editor,

Your article “DSS pulls plans for White Plains Road ‘bingo hall’ shelter,” leaves out much of what happened to stop the proposed White Plains Road men’s shelter.

Here is what was known.

In early October 2021, Community Board 11 was notified of a proposal for a third single-adult men’s homeless shelter at 2028 White Plains Road for 140 homeless men. At the Oct. 28, 2021 full community board meeting under New Business, “Discussion took place regarding the proposed shelter on White Plains Road” is noted.

At the Jan. 11, 2022 CB11 Housing Committee meeting gallery session, many residents in attendance had questions about the proposed single-adult men’s homeless shelter at 2028 White Plains Road. It was stated that there will be a future meeting on the matter.

At the Jan. 20, 2022 CB11 Leadership Committee meeting Al. D’Angelo made a motion, seconded by Yahay Obeid, to send written questions to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) in advance of the February 2022 Housing Committee meeting and CB11 public hearing, which will also be shared with the board’s elected officials, in which the elected officials will be strongly encouraged to attend the public hearing.

Feb. 3, 2022 was the CB11 Virtual Housing Committee meeting with Erin Drinkwater (DHS) who provided a presentation of the intake process and other relevant information regarding the city’s homeless shelter system, stating that there were zero shelter beds available for individuals whose last known address was in CB11. She added that there were three shelters announced for CB11. Westhab will be the nonprofit that will provide services for 140 single adult homeless men at 2028 White Plains Road, number three. Questions were asked that were put off with DHS saying they would get back with answers.

After the CB11 Housing Committee meeting, CB11 held an in-person public hearing where people vented their frustrations with the White Plains Road shelter. CB 11 Chair Al D’Angelo stated that he, the vice chair and district manager decided to wait until the new year to contact the new mayor.

Feb. 8 The Pelham Parkway Neighborhood Association held its monthly meeting where Councilwoman Marjorie Velázquez was the guest, who encouraged community members to speak out against the third shelter as in the article’s last paragraph.

Here is what was not in the article or known about what went on concerning the shelter.

In speaking with CB11 chair D’Angelo, he told me that he had reached out to new Mayor Eric Adams office three times in January 2022 getting no response from his office.

At his Jan. 30, 2022 press conference at Jacobi Hospital, Mayor Adams was asked a question by me about fair share, the attempted dumping of 540-single adult homeless men into CB11 by former Mayor de Blasio, and what he would do. Mayor Adams said that he would check with DHS on the matter.

On Feb. 14, a community organized task force (outside of the community board) met for the first time where evidence of homeless people brought to one of the many CB11 hospitals from other boards and boroughs were being processed into the DHS system using the hospital address they were brought to in CB11 as the address of the homeless person, as per the 16-page DHS form.

At the Feb. 28 meeting of the task force figures were produced whereas the implied number of single homeless men by DHS included over 4,000 homeless women. There was a plan of action to picket the 2028 White Plains Road shelter site, blocking all access to the site to be finalized at the March 14 meeting, with a new letter of objection to the proposed shelter.

At the Monday March 14 meeting of the task force, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson and City Council members Marjorie Velázquez and Oswald Feliz were in attendance. Gibson announced that the shelter at 2028 White Plain Road was not going any further and that CB11 would be getting a letter from DHS to say so. Gibson asked the task force to wait until CB11 received official notice from DHS before saying anything about the shelter plans being halted.

The task force will continue to meet, because we know that the number of homeless people DHS told CB11 — as the board’s homeless responsibility — was wrong, and included hundreds of homeless people who were brought to any of CB11’s hospitals. The task force also wants, if a second shelter is needed at Poplar Street, that it be a family shelter, not a second 200-bed single men’s shelter. We want to monitor DHS, and have DHS give the task force real answers, and not hear, “We will have to get back to you” as they told CB11.

Robert Press,

Community organized task force chair

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