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Pan Am and Westway Set to Become Permanent Homeless Shelters, City Says

By Katie Honan | November 5, 2014 7:35am
 Residents protest outside the Pan Am Shelter in July 2014. 
Residents protest outside the Pan Am Shelter in July 2014. 
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

ELMHURST — At least two emergency homeless shelters that opened this year in Queens, including the controversial site at the former Pan Am Hotel, will become permanent facilities, officials said.

The former Pan Am Hotel, which opened June 5 as an emergency shelter for families, and the Westway in East Elmhurst, which opened July 9 as a families with children shelter after operating as an overnight shelter, are now beginning the process of transitioning into permanent shelters, according to the Department of Homeless Services.

Since its opening, the Westway has become a space for families and is expected to become a permanent residence for more than 100 families, officials said.

“To continue to meet our moral and legal obligation to shelter families with children, all shelters that have opened under the emergency declaration will have to undergo a ... process," a spokesman with DHS said.

By law, the city can operate an emergency shelter for six months before making the facility permanent, according to an official.

Under the transition process, which begins after the six-month deadline, the city must seek a long-term contract for the shelter and also schedule public hearings, which will be posted in the City Record, an official said.

DHS will also provide advance written notice of the hearing to each borough president, as well as the City Council and the comptroller, they said.

The draft of the proposal will also be available at DHS's Manhattan offices for the public to view, an official said. 

It's not clear the exact type of work that will need to be done to the Pan Am, but all family shelters are required to have a separate kitchen for each room, according to an official.

The rooms at the former hotel currently lack that and residents have eaten in a communal ground-floor area since June, according to a source. 

It was not clear if residents would have to be moved during construction.

The Pan Am, which is operated by Samaritan Village, is one of 11 shelters the city has opened since January 2014. It's unclear how many of those shelters first opened as emergency shelters. 

There are currently more than 57,000 residents in the city's shelter system — which has risen by more than 20,000 since 2009, records show.