After the conversion of East Elmhurst‘s Westway Motel from an emergency homeless shelter to a permanent one, the city recently approved a $23,918,936 contract with service provider Women in Need Inc.
The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) approved the conversion on July 9, 2014, of what used to be the Westway Motel at 71-11 Astoria Blvd. Immediately after, an emergency town hall meeting was held to discuss the decision. City Comptroller Scott Stringer officially approved the contract on Dec. 16.
Many residents and elected officials slammed the city agency, calling the conversion an abuse of power after DHS failed to notify the community about the change. The contract will expire on June 30, 2019, with a four-year option renewal that would end on June 30, 2023, according to DHS records.
State Senator Jose Peralta was one of the elected officials concerned about the expediency in which the conversion was approved and the condition of the shelter.
“Though the Westway contract has been approved, I remain very concerned about what appear to be serious health and safety issues at this facility, and others that are under the purview of the Department of Homeless Services,” Peralta said. “I thank Comptroller Stringer for his leadership on this issue thus far, and look forward to continuing to work with him to ensure that Westway and other facilities are operated properly for the benefit of our city’s homeless population.”
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas sued the city last November for misusing the city’s emergency procurement procedure to convert the shelter without notifying the community.
“This contract is another rubber stamp on the decision made unilaterally a year and half ago without consulting the community,” Simotas said. “This lack of meaningful oversight is why I am suing the city and the Department of Homeless Services.”