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Proposed Homeless Shelter on Bedford Avenue Gets Pushback From Residents

By Camille Bautista | August 23, 2016 5:31pm
 Breaking Ground, an organization providing supportive housing and homeless outreach, submitted a proposal to operate a homeless drop-in center at 1217 Bedford Ave. near Halsey Street.
Breaking Ground, an organization providing supportive housing and homeless outreach, submitted a proposal to operate a homeless drop-in center at 1217 Bedford Ave. near Halsey Street.
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DNAinfo/Camille Bautista

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Locals are trying to halt plans for a proposed drop-in center for homeless adults on Bedford Avenue, saying the neighborhood is already oversaturated with shelters.

Breaking Ground, an organization that provides supportive housing and homeless outreach, submitted a proposal to the city to operate a drop-in center at 1217 Bedford Ave., near Halsey Street, according to the group.

The plan came in response to a Request for Proposals from the city’s Department of Homeless Services.

A letter from the organization to Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Community Board 3 details plans for a transitional residence with 30 to 50 beds, and a total capacity of 75 homeless adults.

But residents are worried of the impact on the neighborhood, citing the proposed location’s proximity to the existing Bedford-Atlantic Men’s Shelter, three blocks away.

Locals circulated a petition last week, raising concerns about the area’s quality of life and the planned site being close to elementary schools and playgrounds.

“We’re already oversaturated with shelters and specifically beds for homeless, single adults,” said Marc Faissal, 44, who authored the petition.

“Why is the concentration in Bed-Stuy? Why can’t others in the city have their fair share of shelters?”

Brooklyn’s Community District 3 — which runs from Classon Avenue to Broadway and Saratoga Avenue, and Flushing to Atlantic avenues — houses 13 shelters, according to DHS.

City data from 2015 showed that 10 community districts in New York City with the most homeless shelters had more than the remaining 49 districts combined, as reported by DNAinfo New York.

Brooklyn’s CB3 and CB16 in Brownsville and Ocean Hill made the top 10, while some districts in the borough had no shelters at all.

DHS considers saturation, along with other factors, in determining where to site a new shelter, the agency said.

Drop-in centers, such as the one proposed for Bedford Avenue, provide a place for individuals to shower, eat a meal, see a doctor, and rest, according to DHS. Clients can also receive case management and housing placement services.

Neighbors of the site say they aren’t opposed to helping the city’s homeless, rather, they would like to see services spread out across the city.

“This petition is not anti-homeless, this is not ‘Not In My Backyard,” said Turner Stough, 32, who lives two blocks away from the proposed shelter.

“Everyone understands the needs, and part of our duty as citizens is to help people in need. But you can’t just load it all into one small area.”

In past years, business owners on nearby Fulton Street have complained about aggressive panhandling and people sleeping on benches outside their stores, though they could not pinpoint whether the individuals were from nearby shelters, sources said.

Residents said they’d like to see more resources placed in Bed-Stuy’s current facilities, with long-term help for the homeless and affordable or supportive housing options.

Last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that DHS would be opening at least three new drop-in centers to provide an alternative to traditional shelters, according to the agency.

The city previously had nine, city-funded drop-in centers, but five were closed between 2008 and 2010 due to budget cuts.

“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,” Jeff Scheuer, Breaking Ground’s vice president of external affairs, said in a statement, adding that the proposal for the Bedford Avenue location is under review.

Brooklyn’s Community Board 3 is working with residents and elected officials to prevent the shelter’s plans from moving forward.

“Each day, we are tasked with determining how to meet the City’s legal obligation to shelter tens of thousands of homeless New Yorkers who would otherwise be on the street,” DHS spokeswoman Lauren Gray said.

“These homeless adults and children come to us seeking help from every neighborhood and borough. We’d like to thank the communities, neighbors and commercial businesses working together with us to stand by our fellow New Yorkers as they navigate some of the most difficult situations of their lives.”