Miller: Ozone Park homeless shelters aren’t the answer

Miller: Ozone Park homeless shelters aren’t the answer
By Mike Miller

An open letter to Mayor de Blasio,

Earlier this week, I was informed by the Department of Homeless Services that come winter 2018, a homeless shelter will open in my Assembly district.

If I were given any opportunity by the city to speak on behalf of my constituents before this decision was made for us, I would have pointed out that my community already serves the homeless by way of a drop-in homeless shelter on 100-32 Atlantic Ave. in Ozone Park, which is less than 200 feet from a public high school.

DHS informed me that a permanent shelter will be placed at 85-15 101 Ave. in Ozone Park. The location of the permanent shelter is one mile away from the aforementioned drop-in center for homeless services. I would like to understand your administration’s perspective on how having two shelters forced upon my Assembly district and Community Board 9 without any input from the community where it will affect my constituents and students in the surrounding schools.

These schools include St. Mary Gate of Heaven, High School for Construction Trades, Junior High School 210, PS 64, Richmond Hill High School, MS 137, John Adams High School, and St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy.

How is placing a homeless shelter to house 113 single men ages 21 and up who are dealing with mental illness and addiction near seven schools in my district safe?

I understand the Department of Homeless Services is doing away with hotel shelters with their “Turning the Tide Plan” and will accordingly eliminate the hotel shelter in Kew Gardens. However, burdening Community Board 9 again and the Ozone Park neighborhood is not the solution.

Instead of the city working with the community by communicating with local civic groups, stakeholders and elected officials as to where a shelter should be placed, DHS and Lantern nonprofit independently found a location. I also had to find out through an online article that the plan is to add yet another shelter over the next few years. Your administration continues to fail at transparency, which leaves my constituents in the dark, and it continues to be unacceptable.

In an email from DHS containing details about the shelter, the Office of External Affairs highlights the fulfillment of the 30-day notice requirement. I would like to highlight that 30 days’ notice is not enough time for a community to adequately prepare and address concerns that come along with placing a homeless shelter for men with mental illness and addiction issues in a family oriented neighborhood.

For example, is a shelter the best environment for those dealing with mental illness and addiction issues? Wouldn’t a facility that is trained to treat mental illness and addiction be in the best interest of these men who can tend to their care and treatment plan?

New York City is facing a housing crisis. However, implementing homeless shelters throughout Queens is not a long-term solution to end the homeless epidemic. Our community needs more housing vouchers and more affordable housing units to keep New Yorkers in their homes. Your administration should be doing everything possible to prevent New Yorkers from entering shelters to begin with.

More than ever, our city has become too expensive and as the cost of living continues to increase, more people are living paycheck to paycheck. These are the issues that need to be addressed to keep families and individuals in their homes.

The survival of New York City’s middle class is dependent on coming up with solutions to these problems. Homeless shelters are not the solution and placing them in a residential neighborhood like Ozone Park does not do anyone justice, not the schools, not the residents, and definitely not the local businesses.

I urge you and DHS to reconsider the homeless shelter that is slated to open in my district winter of 2018, and instead focus on a better strategic, long-term plan on where to place the 113 men who are dealing with addiction and mental illness.

Mike Miller

Assemblyman, District 38