Homeless man leaves encampment near Lefferts Playground in South Ozone Park to ‘find the help he needs’

A homeless man opted to leave his encampment near Lefferts Playground in South Ozone Park after Councilwoman Joann Ariola and the 106th Precinct intervened. (Courtesy of Ariola’s office)

A homeless man left his encampment in South Ozone Park just ahead of a cold front bringing sub-freezing nighttime temperatures over the weekend.

Councilwoman Joann Ariola worked with the 106th Precinct and a Manhattan-based nonprofit to convince the man to leave the tent he had been living in near the Lefferts Playground on North Conduit Avenue near Lefferts Boulevard.

An outreach team from Breaking Ground paid several visits to the encampment and once found him trying to light his own belongings on fire. The outreach team succeeded on their third visit to the encampment and convinced him to vacate the area. Breaking Ground is currently evaluating the man before determining a course of action. The Department of Sanitation workers came in and cleared debris from the area.

“The individual living at the encampment was repeatedly setting fires at the location, fires that posed a real danger both to himself and others,” Ariola said. “Working with the 106th Precinct, the Department of Sanitation and the nonprofit organization Breaking Ground, we were finally able to get the individual out of the encampment and into someplace where he can find the help he needs.”

The man could be sent to a shelter or a psychiatrist treatment facility, or he might be placed in transitional housing under Breaking Ground’s Safe Haven program to accommodate homeless individuals who do not make use of traditional shelter and have experienced chronic homelessness.

Safe Havens are “low-threshold” resources: they have fewer requirements, making them attractive to those who are resistant to an emergency shelter. There are no curfews and more privacy. A client can miss a night at the Safe Haven without losing his or her bed, as they would at a traditional shelter, according to Breaking Ground.

The fewer restrictions do not signal a hands-off approach. Safe Havens offer intensive supports to address mental health and substance use disorders, with the ultimate goal of moving each client into permanent housing. Safe Havens enable the most entrenched chronically homeless who have an extreme reluctance to leave behind their unsheltered lives to accept help.

QNS reached out to Breaking Ground and is awaiting a response.