Shelters housing homeless families must have working kitchens, Queens lawmaker demands

Photo courtesy of Senator Stavisky’s office

Standing outside an Elmhurst homeless shelter on Thursday afternoon, a Queens lawmaker announced the introduction of legislation that would mandate that all homeless family shelters have working kitchens in each unit.

State Senator Toby Ann Stavitsky, joined by the advocacy group Elmhurst United on May 17, said that the bill would require family homeless shelters with 10 or more families to have working kitchens within 60 days of the registration of the contract between the operator of the shelter and the City of New York.

The bill came as a direct response to the ongoing use of Queens hotels as homeless shelters in recent years. The former Pan American (Pan Am) Hotel on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, which the city has used to house homeless families since 2014, has been roundly criticized by advocates because the operators didn’t supply the units with functioning kitchens.

“Denying the residents of New York homeless shelters access to working kitchens is wrong,” Stavisky said. “A parent should be able to provide their family with a healthy, sustainable meal instead of resorting to fast food and snacks as many Pan Am residents were forced to do. I am calling on my colleagues in the State Senate and Assembly to pass this legislation to ensure our shelters are more humane and habitable places.”

Stavitsky has been an ongoing advocate for improving conditions at the Pan Am Hotel shelter and at shelters across the city, repeatedly calling on the city to ensure necessities such as functioning kitchens and play areas for children before the hotel is turned into a shelter.

In response, the Pan Am shelter is currently installing kitchens in each of their units.

“Elmhurst United commends Senator Stavisky for her continued support in ensuring shelter providers are held accountable in providing the agreed upon services and living quarters.  This proposed law aligns New York State with New York City law requiring each unit to be equipped with the basic essentials of a cooking facility,” said Elmurst United in a collective statement. “Since 2014, the city has committed to decreasing the number of homeless, cease using hotels as shelters and ensuring that families are placed within their home base. Not one of these commitments has been met. Additionally, it is disgraceful that with the billions spent to address this problem that the number of homeless continues to grow exponentially with no curtailment in sight.”

To learn more about the bill, visit www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2017/s7181/amendment/a.

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