A group of Bed-Stuy residents have launched a change.org petition, appealing the City to not support the opening of a homeless shelter at 1217 Bedford Avenue.
The proposal to open the homeless support center is led by Breaking Ground, a non-profit organization that provides permanent affordable housing for individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Since 1990, the organization has helped more than 12,000 people escape and avoid homelessness.
The sentiment is that shelters are targeted at predominantly black neighborhoods rather than distributed throughout the city.
Breaking Ground points out that the current proposal is to operate a drop-in center, not just a shelter. The drop-in center would be Breaking Ground’s first facility in Bed-Stuy, and it is still under review.
“Drop-In Centers are an important resource for the homeless, and a critical step in their journey from the street to permanent housing and stability,” said Breaking Ground Vice President of External Affairs Jeff Scheuer, in a statement to BK Reader. “Breaking Ground has been serving the homeless for more than 25 years as New York City’s largest provider of supportive housing, running the city’s largest safe haven and homeless street outreach in three boroughs.”
In a letter written to Community Board 3 District Manager Henry Butler, Breaking Ground states the proposed site would hold 30 to 50 beds as transitional residence and would have a drop-in center capacity of 75 homeless adults, which accounts for at least 100 residents at any given time, and between 60-70 percent of which are moving in and out of the facility at any given time.
However, according to recent findings by the Manhattan-based Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness (ICPH), Bed-Stuy and its neighboring community Brownsville lead the borough in the percentages of homeless families. In fact, in the 2014-15 school year, 16 percent of students in Bedford-Stuyvesant’s District 16, and a nearly identical percentage in District 23 in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, were living in homeless shelters,
Still, according to petitioners, the community of Bed-Stuy already has received a disproportionate numbers of such housing– 13 of Brooklyn’s 103 shelters total, more than 12.5 percent of the shelters across all of Brooklyn.
The petition to halt plans for the center was started by Bed-Stuy resident Marc Faissal and currently has over 400 signatures. The petition states the center “is not in compliance with the Fair Share Criteria promulgated by the City Planning Commission” and “unduly impacts the quality of life of the neighborhood.”
Additionally, Faissal cites the proposed center’s proximity to the John Hancock Playground and several elementary schools as a possible cause for concern.
Faissal pointed to his experience with the Bedford Armory shelter for Men in neighboring Crown Heights, where he says shelter residents walk into the library on Franklin Ave and into playgrounds and try to engage in conversation with the children. He said he witnessed it happen with his own son.
“This is where our opposition, my opposition and the group I’ve spoken with, this is the thought that we have: We’ve done enough in Bed-Stuy for the city,” said Faissal. “Let other neighborhoods do the same.”
The petition also is supported by City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Jr. and Bed-Stuy’s Community Board 3.
Butler said that normally, there is a public hearing to get feedback from the community. “What communities try to do is nip it in the bud,” he said.
Bed-Stuy has enough shelters already and should not be a “dumping ground” for the entire city’s shelters: The sentiment is that shelters are targeted at predominantly black neighborhoods rather than distributed throughout the city.
The proposal comes in response to Mayor De Blasio’s announcement in January that the Department of Homeless Services would fund three new drop-in centers meant to provide services like food and showers, mail service, case management and help accessing medical insurance and treatment for the homeless. Barriers to access are meant to be low: anyone can come in.
Brooklyn currently has one drop-in center run by the nonprofit CAMBA located on Atlantic not far from the Broadway Junction stop.
“This location has been proposed to serve as a drop-in center and safe haven that would bring homeless New Yorkers off of the street into safety and connect them to resources,” Lauren Gray, spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services, said in a statement. “We are committed to engaging communities on these issues, listening to feedback and working to address community concerns.”
“I think we will be very successful to at least bring the people involved to the table. Let’s discuss where we go from here,” said Faissal.
Councilmember Cornegy will be holding a town hall meeting regarding the homeless center on Monday, August 29, from 6:00pm to 7:30pm, at Restoration Plaza, located 1368 Fulton Street, in the multi-purpose room. All Bed-Stuy residents are invited.