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MAP: 10 Community Districts Carry Bulk of City's Homeless Shelters

By Eddie Small | August 24, 2015 3:28pm
 Several of New York City's homeless shelters are concentrated in the South Bronx and Upper Manhatttan, according to data from the Department of Homeless Services.
Homeless shelters
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NEW YORK — The 10 community districts in New York City with the most homeless shelters have more than the remaining 49 districts combined, data shows.

While the top 10 districts in the five boroughs have a total of 135 shelters, the other 49 have just 120, according to data from the Department of Homeless Services.

"It’s not divided fairly," said Ivine Galarza, district manager of Community Board 6 in The Bronx, which is home to 16 shelters and covers neighborhoods including Belmont, West Farms and Bathgate.

"There are other areas in The Bronx that don’t have one," she added.

Bronx's CB6 has the highest number of shelters in the borough and the second highest in the city, only behind Manhattan's Community Board 10, which covers Central Harlem and has 19 shelters.

Of the top 10 districts with the most shelters, 4 of them, including CB6, are located in the Bronx. Three are located in Manhattan, including CB10, which covers East Harlem; CB11, covering Central Harlem and CB3, which covers the Lower East Side, according to DHS data. 

The top 10 also include CB3 and CB16 in Brooklyn and CB12 in Queens, which covers Jamaica.

While people in the neighborhood have unfortunately grown accustomed to the proliferation, Galarza argued that shelters should be spread out more evenly throughout the city and she hopes different types of developments arrive in the district going forward.

"We’re looking for more market rate housing to be built in our community as we seek projects that will allow people to move in," she said.

On the flip side, a total of 14 districts throughout the five boroughs have no shelters at all, including boards 10 through 13 in Brooklyn and boards five through seven in Queens, according to DHS. Bronx's CB8, which covers Riverdale, and CB11, covering Morris Park, also have none.

The department does take the number of nearby existing shelters into account before deciding where to open new sites, as well as the financial feasibility of the property and whether it could support necessary social services, the agency said.

New York is legally required to provide housing for anyone who needs it and tries to make sure that the sites are spread out evenly across the city, DHS spokeswoman Jaslee Carayol said.

"We work diligently to ensure borough equity in shelter siting and collaborate closely with surrounding communities to ease the transition and ensure safety," Carayol said in an email. 

"Though DHS weighs multiple factors including proximity to public transportation and existing shelters in the area when choosing sites, we are also limited in options due to low building vacancy rates in New York City,” she continued.

Despite the inequality by neighborhoods, the shelters appear fairly evenly dispersed when looked at by borough. Brooklyn, The Bronx and Manhattan are home to 76, 81 and 74 sites, respectively.

Queens only has 22, but DHS worked to put shelters in the borough last year despite neighborhood opposition — a fairly common issue when it comes to placing homeless shelters.

A new shelter recently opened inside a former YMCA at 470 E. 161st St. to the outcry of Bronxites in the neighborhood. Residents of Greenpoint had a similar reaction last fall when they discovered plans to open a shelter on Clay Street.

Additionally, at a rally against a homeless shelter at the Pan Am Hotel in Elmhurst last summer, protestors booed the site's residents, demanding they pay rent and "get a job."

Bronx Community Board 4 has 13 shelters, and District Manager Jose Rodriguez said that officials tended to justify new sites by noting that they are being placed in communities where most homeless people come from.

Rodriguez argued it would be difficult for a district to improve if shelters are continually placed in the neighborhood.

"Boards like ours suffer greatly with these types of facilities, while understanding that we need to do all we can to assist the individuals who are vulnerable and provide for them," he said.

Yvonne Reddick, district manager of Queens Community Board 12 in Jamaica, which has 10 shelters, agreed.

"We have nothing against homelessness because any one of us could be homeless before the end of the day," she said. "But we feel that we should not be the dumping ground."