City talks LIC shelter name change, issues in closed ‘community’ meeting

THE COURIER/Photo by Angela Matua

A community advisory board (CAB) meeting was held on Thursday to discuss Pam’s Settlement — formerly known as The Verve Hotel — a recently opened homeless shelter in Long Island City.

A Courier reporter who tried attending the meeting at 40-03 29th St. was denied access. According to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), reporters and residents who are not a part of the board are not allowed to sit in on these meetings.

“Under the official CAB protocol, these meetings are subject to the Closed Meeting Rule, banning press or anyone not affiliated with the CAB from attending,” the spokesperson said. “This is to protect the integrity of these meetings, as well as the protection and privacy of our clients.”

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who attended the meeting, sat down with The Courier to discuss what transpired. According to Van Bramer, the women’s homeless shelter is now called Pam’s Settlement, named for the chief operating officer of the Acacia Network, the service provider at the shelter. Residents began moving into the shelter on Oct. 16.

There are currently 87 women housed at the shelter, and there are plans to increase that total to 200. Many of these women have mental health needs but a significant portion are eligible to work, Van Bramer said. Each room houses two women, but some suite-style rooms will fit three or more women in a room.

According to the councilman, members expressed concern that the suites and number of women DHS will allow into Pam’s Settlement is not conducive to providing adequate one-on-one care. There are 94 rooms in the shelter but DHS could not answer how many of those rooms are suites. The agency said they would update the CAB when they had concrete numbers.

“The people of this community have been incredibly compassionate and the level of support they’ve received here is unlike the support they’ve received anywhere else,” Van Bramer said.

A member of the board also asked DHS if women have access to the fitness center at the shelter. The DHS was not planning on opening the gym to the women because of insurance liabilities with the equipment, but will now look to change that plan.

“I was floored by that question,” Van Bramer said. “It spoke to these woman who we want to care for. They’re our neighbors and physical health is part of overall health.”

The issue of residents loitering in front of the building was also discussed, and DHS told the board that an outdoor patio in the back of the building is provided to the women. A representative from the 108th Precinct is also a part of the board and is working with the CAB to address concerns, Van Bramer added.

The meeting was included in Van Bramer’s public agenda and was mailed out to several reporters. The councilman said he assumed that this meeting, much like community board and civic association meetings, was open to the public. The CABs are instituted for every shelter across the city, and regular meetings will be held to address issues at Pam’s Settlement.

The DHS did not immediately respond when asked if public meetings that are open to the community would also be held in addition to CAB meetings.