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Troubled Shelter Has To Clean Up Act or Lose Contract, City Says

By Gwynne Hogan | December 6, 2016 1:23pm
 Clay Street Residence is rolling out a batch of improvements in the next few weeks.
Clay Street Residence is rolling out a batch of improvements in the next few weeks.
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

GREENPOINT — A troubled shelter is rolling out a series of improvements in the next few weeks in a last ditch effort to save its beleaguered relationship with neighbors and avoid losing its city contract, officials said.

The changes —  which include building out an interior courtyard to prevent smokers from congregating out on the street, adding roving foot security patrols in the blocks surrounding the shelter and creating a new recreation room to hold classes teaching residents how to be good neighbors — are the last chance for nonprofit Home/Life Services Inc to hang on to their position running the Clay Street shelter, city officials told local residents at a Monday night community meeting. 

"If this doesn't work out with Home/Life then we'll replace the provider," said Daniel Tietz, a Special Services Officer for Human Resources Administration which oversees Homeless Services.

Local City Councilman Steve Levin added that if they didn't start to see improvements in a month's time he would push the city to get rid of Home/Life.

"I'm allowing for some of these reforms to be put in place to see if they're effective," he said. "If the situation does not improve and there's still problems with residents at 66 Clay then we have a problem."

Since the shelter at 56-66 Clay Street opened in late 2014, residents have complained of loitering, screaming, shouting and fights in the street and frequent drug deals on the corner of Manhattan and Clay in front of God Bless Deli.

“It’s like hell down there with the yelling and the arguing, the fighting at 2, 3 o’clock in the morning.” said Mike Hofmann, 65, who lives on the corner. “I’ve lived here 63 years I never saw anything like it.”

The changes at the shelter follow months of pressure from residents and elected officials.

"The community has been incredibly passionate and incredibly patient," said Matthew Borden, from Department of Homeless Services. "We're not going to let up."

Starting in the next few weeks, an empty retail space in the building will be turned into a recreation room so organizers will finally have space for more computers, and to hold anger management and job training classes, and courses including how to be a good neighbor, explained Riquelma Moreno, the regional director for Home/Life.

"There's a long list of things that we're doing," Moreno said, "We're going to keep people busy."

And the renovation of the internal courtyard, slated to be finished by the end of the week, weather permitting, will allow smokers to stay inside the compound instead of going out on the street after curfew, Moreno explained.

While Monday's meeting, brought some relief to neighbors, Hofmann said he was still waiting to see if Home/Life Services would actually deliver on their promises.

“[They're] pretty solid updates, but it’s the same BS every month," said Hofmann. “I don’t believe it till I see it.”