Local Greenpoint Homeless Shelter to Open After Four Years' Search

By Meredith Hoffman on September 27, 2012 9:52am | Updated on September 27, 2012 1:19pm

GREENPOINT — After years of struggling to get the neighborhood's homeless off the streets and out of McCarren and McGolrick parks, advocates have finally found a solution — a shelter that will open within weeks, DNAinfo.com has learned.

A local church will begin operating a shelter for 15 local homeless men as early as Nov. 1, officials from the city's Department of Homeless Services said.

DHS is funding the shelter with $100,000, a department spokeswoman said, and noted that Polish-speaking staff would be on site for the mainly Polish residents.

"The goal is to provide a safe place to sleep for a group of individuals who currently reside on the streets in the surrounding neighborhood," the spokeswoman said. "Slated to begin operations this November, the pilot program will offer respite beds as an alternative to traditional shelter."

The nightly facility also connects clients with recovery coaches to address substance abuse, the spokeswoman said.

She would not disclose the particular church that would house the shelter.

“We are tailoring services to the community’s needs and addressing their most vulnerable population by offering concrete solutions, such as a bed, while being culturally sensitive,” said DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond.

Local officials and activists who have campaigned for years to create a local shelter said they were relieved a solution was finally in place.

"We're very excited," said Rami Metal, chief of staff for Williamsburg Council Member Stephen Levin, who has worked on a homeless task force the past four years to address the estimated 30 people in Greenpoint with nowhere to take shelter.

Advocates have said a permanent housing option for the area's homeless men and women — who can often be found hanging out in the northwest pocket of McCarren Park, among other spots — would help them battle their addictions.

Almost all of the estimated 30 people are chronic alcohol or drug users, Pat McDonnell, a coordinator with the Outreach Project for substance abuse, told DNAinfo.com earlier this year.

She noted that most of them only speak Polish, so they fear leaving the neighborhood for another housing option.

This past winter, the shelter controversy became especially heated when the Department of Homeless Services claimed it would help fund a church to open its doors to the homeless — but no church stepped forward at the time due to the vague offer and to liability issues, they said. 

Now the local church will take in residents, as well as the newly opened shelter at 400 McGuiness Blvd., the DHS spokeswoman said.

"The Greenpoint community is being allotted 20 beds for the street homeless population," she said of the transitional shelter, which has caused recent controversy in the neighborhood.

"Here, street homeless individuals will be able to bypass traditional intake via an outreach worker and go straight to a bed, day or night," she said of the shelter at 400 McGuiness Blvd.

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