Controversial Greenpoint Homeless Shelter Welcomes First Residents

By Meredith Hoffman on August 22, 2012 6:51am 

GREENPOINT — It was fiercely fought by neighbors, but a brand new shelter in Greenpoint was very welcome to the homeless desperate to move off the streets.

"It's a godsend," said Bob, 57, one of the center's first clients who declined to give his last name.

"The neighborhood's great ... the space is clean, light, airy."

Bob, one of the first batch of residents at the 200-bed center at 400 McGuiness Blvd., said the residence had shattered his fears about homeless shelters, which he said he never dreamed of needing until this June when he had a heart attack, lost his job in finance and his home in Forest Hills.

"Most people have preconceived notions about shelters, and I was one of them," he said.

"But guys here want to get jobs, and plenty guys here are working. But you can't get an apartment on $7 an hour."

The new Bowery Residents' Committee facility, a shelter for men to stay short-term before relocating to other residences, also will include 20 beds reserved for Greenpoint's homeless, a Department of Homeless Services spokeswoman said. So far about 25 men who are staying the shelter, sources told DNAinfo.com, and That Greenpoint Blog noted the shelter's opening earlier this month. 

"It's like the Ritz Carlton," Bob said, comparing the building to his previous experience at Manhattan's 30th Street intake shelter that he claimed lacked air conditioning and felt like "115 degrees inside."

The Department of Homeless Services declined to comment on the situation at the 30th Street shelter.

Although the Greenpoint shelter's residents and visitors agreed that the space was clean and high quality, local residents and officials said they had been left in the dark about the shelter's opening.

"I'm disappointed that the Department of Homeless Services opened prior to community consultation," said local Assembly Member Lincoln Restler, who attended a meeting Tuesday at the center.

The Tuesday meeting excluded the public, although some residents tried to attend with the impression that it was an open informational session.

"I was pretty irate," said Mike Hoffmann, an active community member who was allowed in the meeting but said many of his friends were not.

A spokeswoman for DHS, however, said that the agency had reached out to local officials and community board members as the shelter prepared to open, and that the community was welcome to join the Community Advisory Committee for the shelter.

“The BRC Assessment Center is a state-of-the-art facility, providing security, specialized social services and client transportation, in addition to meeting shelter needs," the spokeswoman said. "In a recent community advisory meeting, all raised concerns were addressed and BRC staff made themselves available to advisory board members around the clock.”

The shelter currently offers shuttle service to residents and enforces a 10 p.m. curfew, the spokeswoman said.

"It's a nice place," Hoffmann said. "We'll have to wait and see what happens," he said of the residence's effect on the community.

But for Bob, who's still struggling in the shock of his recent homelessness, the environment at 400 McGuiness Blvd. haw already benefited his life.

"It can happen to anybody. You wake up one day and say what happened?" he said.

"They're helping us find jobs and apartments here. People here treat you with respect."

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