By Juan Soto
Southeast Queens houses more than its fair share of homeless shelters.
Out of at least 18 shelters in the borough, ten are located within the area served by Community Board 12, which covers Jamaica, South Jamaica, Hollis, St. Albans, South Ozone Park and Springfield Gardens.
Because of what it called “unfair and excessive concentration” of shelters in the district, CB 12 passed a resolution asking the city to stop building shelters in Jamaica and surrounding neighborhoods.
Although the board said it is “sympathetic to the needs of those desirous of residence in safe, comfortable housing,” it asked the Department of Homeless Services to “adopt a policy regarding equitable distribution of problem populations.”
CB 12 requested “a moratorium on any further building or expansion of homeless and other problem facilities.”
A spokesman for DHS said the agency will take into consideration the request by the community board.
“Our city faces real challenges to temporarily house homeless families and individuals,” he said. “Though Queens does have considerably fewer shelters than the other boroughs, we hear the concerns of the community and look forward to continuing our partnership.”
CB 12 said that about 30 percent of the shelters in its district are located in downtown Jamaica.
The request comes at a time when several neighborhoods in Queens are rejecting plans by DHS to build more shelters.
The city agency insisted the expansion of the shelter system is necessary because the number of people entering the shelters “continues to exceed” the number of available spaces.
City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) said he supports the CB 12 resolution.
“I stand in full support… to formally request an end to the saturation of southeast Queens with transient housing facilities,” Donovan said.
Richards noted, “This glaring imbalance in the placement of shelters in this community and throughout the rest of Queens must be addressed.”
He urged the city to provide resources in order to assist “individuals currently in the system transition to permanent housing and self-sufficiency.”
City Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) also gave thumbs up to the board’s resolution.
“The resolution passed by Community Board 12 is certainly consistent with the direction our city is moving in,” Miller said. “Select communities should not hold an unfair burden in serving the city”. The CB 12 resolution, approved last month, said the city is “concentrating excessive numbers of homeless and other populations within Community Board 12” in an approach to the borough that “has been pervasive for several years.”
DHS recently began the process of establishing a permanent homeless shelter at the West Way Hotel in East Elmhurst, while the old Pan Am hotel in Elmhurst was set up recently as a permanent shelter.
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.