By Bill Parry
The city’s Department of Homeless Services has come under fire for suddenly moving 54 families out of a temporary shelter at a Long Island City hotel to make room for homeless men.
The families were ordered out of the City View Inn, at 33-17 Greenpoint Ave., after they received letters on Wednesday giving them a few hours to pack and make arrangements to move to facilities in other boroughs. By agency policy, families are supposed to get 48-hours’ written notice of transfers.
“Families at this location were supposed to be transferred to the other sites on Wednesday, so we could use this location to meet immediate capacity needs, but were transferred on Thursday instead,” DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn said. “We apologize for the miscommunication regarding the timing of the move and want to state clearly that no families were displaced from shelter or turned out onto the streets.”
The miscommunication began when staff members of the service provider Childrens Community Services started verbally notifying some of the families on Sunday of the need to transfer. Families received the letters Wednesday, whereas they should have received them Monday, providing the 48 hours’ notice.
“It is an outrage that DHS has acted with such incompetence and cruelty,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside). “To rip these families and children away from their homes at a moment’s notice only serves to traumatize the most vulnerable among us.”
DHS needed to find room for 100 homeless single men after a spike in the adult census earlier this month that increased during the city’s longest stretch of subfreezing temperatures since 1961. That coincided with the unprecedented success of the city’s Home-Stat program, a citywide multi-agency initiative to combat street homelessness that transitioned nearly 1,500 homeless off the street from spring 2016 through last November.
“This new milestone proves that our strategy is working and that the growing partnership between the NYPD and our homeless outreach workers is producing more contacts and more transitions from streets and subways into shelter for homeless New Yorkers,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said last Wednesday, the same day residents at the City View Inn received their letters to transfer out. “The problem wasn’t created overnight and won’t be solved overnight, but we’re headed in the right direction.”
DHS needed to secure additional capacity based on projected needs, but it cannot provide shelter to single adults and families with children at the same location.
DHS began using the City View Inn three months before it told members of Community Board 2 during a raucous meeting in October at which officials explained taking over the Best Western hotel at 38-05 Hunters Point Blvd., which began housing homeless families in late September, also with short notice.
“It is also unacceptable that once again, DHS has acted without notifying community leaders and elected officials,” Van Bramer said. “I am angry at DHS for consistently mismanaging the homeless crisis in New York City and in Queens, and for not being able to move the ball forward on reducing homelessness in our city. The city absolutely must do better.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by email at bparr