Three northeast Queens lawmakers on Tuesday, Dec. 29, revealed that the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) is planning to open a new homeless shelter for senior women in Douglaston.
In a joint statement, Senator John Liu, Assembly Edward Braunstein and Councilman Paul Vallone said that the shelter at 243-02 Northern Blvd. would service 75 senior adult women with services provided by the nonprofit Samaritan Village. A spokesperson from Vallone’s office confirmed that the shelter would be at the former location of Pride of Judea Community Services and will open in late 2021.
The lawmakers said they received word of the new development on Wednesday, Dec. 23, but criticized DHS for its lack of community engagement prior to establishing the shelter. Patch reported that prior to the lawmaker’s pushback, the shelter was originally meant for single men.
“After voicing our collective concerns with DHS, today we received confirmation of a revised plan for the location: a 75-bed, senior women’s-only shelter,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “While we believe this is a better outcome for the community at large, we are still disappointed to see DHS adopt policies where key decisions are made without ever engaging local stakeholders and community members. In the coming months, an open dialogue and our continued coordination will ensure that DHS listens and properly responds to any and all of the community’s needs and concerns during all stages of the process. As additional information is shared with us, we will share it with the community.”
According to the agency, Community District 19 currently has no shelters in place to house those experiencing homelessness in the district. Additionally, after sending “multiple annual letters” to communities and community boards across the city, and also to elected officials since launching Mayor de Blasio’s Turning the Tide plan, a DHS spokesperson told QNS that the agency has not received any community feedback or responses for consideration.
“Today, there are no shelters in this Community District, which means there is no way to offer shelter services and supports in this community to New Yorkers from this community who may experience homelessness,” a DHS spokesperson told QNS. “This new high-quality facility will be the first traditional shelter in this Community District, offering 75 senior women experiencing homelessness the opportunity to get back on their feet safely and closer to their anchors of life, like jobs, healthcare, family and houses of worship. Working together with neighbors and not-for-profit service provider Samaritan Village, 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 all.”
In a letter to Councilman Vallone, the Department of Social Services (DSS) said that following the establishment of the shelter, smaller cluster sites and commercial hotel locations would close in accordance with Turn the Tide.
“Our goal is to guarantee that our facilities are seamlessly integrated into each community, so that our shelters are good neighbors and our clients receive a warm welcome,” DSS said in the letter. “We encourage community members to partner with us by volunteering time and talents and/or joining the Community Advisory Board (CAB) which will be created for each new site to facilitate open dialogue and address concerns, should they arise. We would greatly appreciate your recommendations for community members you believe would be essential voices for this CAB.”
Richard Lee, a candidate for City Council in the 19th District voiced his strong opposition for the shelter, citing the lack of transportation and appropriate social services in the area.
“While I understand the need to support our homeless, this location is isolated and provides no support infrastructure. There are no social service providers in the area and, Northeast Queens being a transit desert, public transportation options in the area are almost non-existent,” Lee said. “In addition, the Department of Homeless Services continues to make decisions without engaging the community first, a decision that shows how little they care about community needs or concerns. Finally, I do not believe we should be warehousing our homeless. The city could use those millions of dollars to instead provide direct rental vouchers so that these individuals could have decent and dignified housing. This is especially true now, where the city is experiencing record high vacancy rates in the rental market. We can do better to support our most needy New Yorkers.”