The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) is not only proceeding with its years-long plan to open a Glendale shelter, but will also open a facility in Ridgewood for homeless residents, the agency told QNS.
News of the Glendale plan broke on Thursday night, as Councilman Robert Holden took to Facebook to announce that the DHS informed him of their plans for 78-16 Cooper Ave., a once dormant factory which has undergone extensive renovation in recent months.
The DHS confirmed to QNS that they will, in fact, open two shelters in the Community Board 5 district over the next year.
The Cooper Avenue site will house 200 single individuals who are currently employed or seeking employment and open in early 2020.
Holden said in an Aug. 23 press release that Westhab, a service provider based in Westchester County, will operate the Glendale shelter. “A significant portion of the men housed at the shelter will be from the now–closed Maspeth Holiday Inn temporary shelter, per DHS,” according to Holden’s office.
The Ridgewood location, located at a former factory at 1616 Summerfield St., will house 132 families with children with a late 2020 opening date.
Priority at both locations will be given to those originally from Community Board 5, most of which is represented by Holden, who are experiencing hardship, DHS said.
“Homeless New Yorkers come from every community across the five boroughs, so we need every community to come together to address homelessness,” a DHS statement read. “With zero shelters in Queens Community District 5, these sites will give individuals and families with children the opportunity to get back on their feet closer to their anchors of life. Working together with neighbors and not-for-profit service provider partners, we’re confident that these New Yorkers will be warmly welcomed — and through collaborative support and compassion, we will make this the best experience it can be for these individuals as they get back on their feet.”
Holden claimed that he and others would rally against the plan to provide services to about 330 in southwestern Queens, which DHS claims has no full service shelters at this point in time.
“I along with other elected have just been informed by [DHS] that they intend on moving forward with a shelter in Glendale,” Holden said on Twitter. “We’ll be meeting with community leaders/members in the coming days to start planning how we as a community will fight against this irresponsible decision.”
A furious Holden blasted the city on Aug. 23 for not considering his alternate plan to build a school on the site instead of a shelter.
“I am disgusted with the way City Hall does business when it comes to housing the homeless,” said Holden. “I presented a strong plan to have a new District 75 school built on the Cooper Avenue property and I was told by all involved city agencies that this was an ideal solution. But as soon as DOE Chancellor Richard Carranza got involved, he decided it would be better to continue wasting our tax dollars and let the District 75 special needs students suffer in a century-old building surrounded by heavy truck traffic.”
Holden was a driving force in the protests against homeless shelters in Queens during the 2016 demonstrations in the midst of a homelessness crisis. Since then, he has used that influence, in part, to successful unseat former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley in November 2017.
“I tried to fight against this shelter the right way, by negotiating with city agencies and coming up with reasonable proposals, only to have the rug pulled out from under me,” added Holden on Friday. “I was told countless times that DHS and SCA loved my plan to build a new school on Cooper Ave., and the mayor’s approval was all that was needed. But the mayor recently told me he knew nothing about the plan. I’m sick of playing this game with City Hall, so now I will fight back the best way I know how, with my neighbors by my side.”
Among the complaints against shelters in nearly any part of the borough, critics often point to the proximity of facilities to schools or cite the areas lack of accommodations such as transportation or grocery stores.
State Senator Joseph Addabbo also vowed to oppose what he deemed to be “large-scale” shelters in favor of smaller facilities he views as more appropriate for the community.
“With my district on the verge of having Mayor De Blasio place a fourth large population of homeless men within its boundaries, most recently proposed for Glendale, I will continue to oppose larger scaled shelters with limited services and inadequate transportation, while advocating for smaller, more community-appropriate sites that would better serve the homeless individuals in need,” Addabbo said. “What about utilizing city-owned sites and properties for cost-efficient modular housing as done in other states? What about developing abandoned zombie homes and providing a better living environment for homeless families, especially the children? I guess after witnessing five years of the De Blasio administration’s treatment of the homeless crisis, we may never know the answers.”
As a counterbalance to the approach taken by critics, Catherine Trapani at Homeless Services United stood by the mayor’s plan to provide widespread support for the homeless population.
“Every New Yorker in need has the right to safe, quality shelter and every community must share in ensuring that right is upheld,” Trapani said. “Homeless Services United stands with homeless families and individuals and looks forward to continued progress on the mayor’s plan to transform the shelter system and open new facilities when and where they are needed.”
Josh Goldfein at Coalition for the Homeless also issued a statement of support for the shelters which would situate residents closer family, friends and employment.
“Our clients come from every corner of the city and until there is enough affordable housing for everyone, they are going to need shelter in their communities, where they have support networks and jobs and medical care.”
Since then, the mayor’s office has launched the initiative Turning the Tide on Homelessness which aimed to examine the amount of homeless by community board and provide shelters as needed. It will phase out all hotels and cluster sites by 2020.
DHS, through service providers, will not only give residents on-site mental health and medical services, 24/7 security with a minimum of two guards will also be in place.
According to DHS, there are over 8,100 homeless from Queens currently living in shelters.
This story was updated at 2:11 p.m.