Just days before the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) planned to open the College Point men’s homeless shelter, the agency confirmed it will instead move forward with plans to house 200 women.
This development comes 10 months after lawmakers confirmed the city’s plans for the shelter. Following the original announcement, residents staged multiple rallies, town halls and meetings with DHS, during which locals voiced myriad concerns including the shelter’s proximity to schools and houses and lack of community input.
Members of the College Point Residents Coalition (CPRC) also sought legal action against the city and DHS and provided updates on the group’s public Facebook page.
DHS plans to open the shelter at 127-03 20th Ave. on Wednesday, Oct. 2.
“From the outset, the residents of College Point have been unequivocal that a shelter for 200 single men would be wholly inappropriate for this residential site in close proximity to several schools,” said Senator John Liu. “The community remained diligent, vigilant and united and has now successfully secured the conversion to a shelter for women, rather than single men. Although the plan is by no means perfect, we are satisfied that a far better outcome has been achieved.”
Residents first heard rumor of the shelter in October 2018, when Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal noticed “shelter-type” renovations in the Department of Buildings records. That same month, Councilman Paul Vallone revealed that the mayor’s office and DHS submitted a proposal for the site to be turned into a shelter.
“The city’s decision to place a 200 bed, all-male facility in close proximity to numerous schools raised concerns for the residents of College Point,” said Rosenthal. “We thank DHS for listening to the community, and modifying their plans to an all-woman shelter to alleviate some of the local unease.”
According to DHS, the city shelled out $9 million to originally house 200 homeless men transitioning from prison as part of Mayor de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide on Homelessness” plan. The borough-based approach to the homelessness crisis included plans to build 90 shelters across the city in order to keep residents close to their families.
“I’ve said from day one that the mayor’s homeless shelter strategy and site selection process is deeply flawed and in need of serious revision, and the shelter property owner’s deception won’t soon be forgotten,” said Vallone. “However, through coordination between the College Point Residents Coalition, A Better College Point and my fellow electeds, our negotiations with DHS to secure a women’s only shelter for those in our community experiencing homelessness is a step in the right direction. The administration should have involved the community in this process from the beginning, instead of playing catch up in the weeks leading up to the proposed opening date. I thank the College Point civic leaders, including Jennifer Shannon and the late Joe Femenia, for their constant dedication to our community. Our continued coordination will ensure that DHS listens and properly responds to the community’s needs and concerns going forward.”
College Point residents disseminated their message of “solutions not shelters” and urged the city to find alternative solutions to the rampant homelessness problem plaguing the city. Some of the proposed solutions included moving the shelter to a different neighborhood and building more affordable housing options.
“This is not what we demanded, certainly it’s not what we hoped for. However, we do feel that a women’s shelter will be better and is a less intimidating fit for the community, particularly the elderly, women and school kids, as their safety is what we are most worried and concerned about,” said Michael Deng, member of CP Residents’ Coalition. “I am relieved. The conversion is an achievement and as a coalition, we have been so committed and we accomplished this with the support of the community and Senator John Liu, Assemblyman Rosenthal and Councilman Vallone.”
QNS reached out to DHS and is currently awaiting comment.