Many civic associations concerned about homeless shelters in their neighborhoods

By Bob Harris

For years many civic leaders have been concerned when homeless people are placed in local hotels. Not only are civic associations and co-ops disturbed by the very high rents paid to house the homeless, but also because some of them are emotionally ill or addicts and wander around the streets disrupting the community.

Often the legislators are given only a few hours notice that the homeless are going into a local hotel.

The mentally ill and drug users make noise day and night, steal from local stores and drive away customers, fight on the streets, take off their clothes, pander to locals for money, leave drug paraphernalia, and lie around the streets all day because they are not permitted in the shelters during the day.

The city often stops using a hotel after demonstrations by the community, but it then shifts to another one for the homeless. It would be more efficient if the city worked with families to prevent them from becoming homeless than to rent a hotel room for them. Sadly, such as bill was just rejected by the Legislature in Albany.

On Sept. 20, the city used 64 of the 82 rooms they had reserved in a Best Western Hotel in Sunnyside. This is Councilman Van Bramer’s district. The city has claimed that it is phasing out the use of all hotels as homeless shelters by 2019. It is using all 82 rooms of a Best Western on Hunters Point Avenue, giving the Councilman less than 24 hours notice.

A homeless man pleaded guilty on Sept. 29 to breaking into three churches and a Hindu temple “to get back at God” in Elmhurst, Queens.

Newsweek said in an Oct. 1 article that the city will initiate a pilot program to cover 12 months of rent for homeless families who seek housing outside the five boroughs. Some families were taken to see apartments in Newark, N.J. Mayor Bloomberg had assisted 6,400 homeless people buy one-way tickets out of NYC. These were people who had been in the city database for three months and had a job or some source of income, including disability benefits.

New York City simply does not have enough affordable housing for its 60,000 homeless. The state has 86,000 homeless, while California has 118,000.

On Oct. 5, the city opened a surprise shelter in the old Union Avenue Hotel in Williamsburg, using 54 rooms. This is Councilman Antonio Reynoso’s district. The Department of Homeless Services says it is building 90 new shelters. The DHS says it delivers three meals a day to each person in the hotel, but there are no kitchens in the rooms, perhaps no refrigerator and probably no desk for any children to do homework. Are adequate social services being provided to these families and individuals?

The Kewl, a hotel in Kew Gardens, rents out the upper part of the hotel as a luxury hotel with rooms at $2,400, but the lower part is a Comfort Inn which provides rooms to the homeless at $5,250 a month. This is Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz’s district. Often the police will not give statistics on crime in homeless shelters. Some people say the police lower the status of a crime to make it seem less severe.

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