Residents and representatives of Ozone Park are the latest of a growing list of Queens people who are irate at the possibility of a homeless shelter coming to their community.
Councilman Ruben Wills and Assemblyman Mike Miller were joined by members of Community Board 9 and local residents on Tuesday to collectively bemoan a proposal supported by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to locate a homeless center less than 200 feet from a local high school.
The site in question was proposed by the nonprofit organization Breaking Ground, which hopes to provide 50 safe-haven beds and 75 daily meals and showers for the city’s homeless population. Additionally, clients would be provided with their own private spaces and would not be forced outside during daytime hours.
Despite these proposals representing a departure from the deplorable conditions reported in other shelters throughout the city, Wills and Miller are troubled by a perceived lack of transparency from the city and the proposed site’s proximity to the High School of Construction, Trades, Engineering and Architecture.
Under New York State law, it is illegal for certain restricted sex offenders to live close to a school’s grounds; last year, the DHS was found to have unlawfully housed sex offenders at the Skyway’s Men’s Shelter in South Ozone Park, which is close to a school.
“A facility that serves an adult homeless population simply should not be located less than 200 feet from a school,” Wills said. “I cannot in good faith endorse any such proposal under these circumstances, and have urged DHS and Breaking Ground to reconsider. Still, much has been rumored about the conditions under which such a facility would operate were it to open, and the need for definitive information is paramount.”
“Since the beginning of this RFP (Request for Proposal) process the lack of transparency has been disturbing,” Miller added. “Breaking Ground has said they would not screen for sex offenders during a meeting at Borough Hall”.
A town hall regarding the proposal is set to be held next week from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at Richi Rich Palace, located in Richmond Hill at 110-19 Atlantic Ave.