12 AUGUST 2, 2018 RIDGEWOOD TIMES WWW.QNS.COM
The city’s shelter communication problem
Whenever the city proposes
a homeless shelter in a
Queens neighborhood, the
consensus among many residents can
be summarized in four simple words:
not in my backyard (NIMBY).
But NIMBYism alone isn’t the full
reason for the opposition to homeless
shelters in Queens. As we’ve said before
in this space, the city is woefully inept
not only in dealing with this homelessness
crisis, but also in communicating
what’s being done to house more than
60,000 homeless New Yorkers.
For some reason, the city’s Department
of Homeless Services (DHS) has
a habit of keeping people in the dark
about where to put homeless shelters.
Whenever a proposed homeless shelter
crops up in Queens, the fi rst thing you
hear from elected offi cials and civic
leaders is that they had no knowledge
of the plan until the city started moving
homeless people into a retrofi tted
hotel, or when contractors are already
on the job building a shelter.
It happened again this past week in
Glendale, where residents got wind
that the city was again looking at
turning a defunct factory into a homeless
shelter for men. Earlier this year,
the city withdrew a previous plan for
the site aft er years of wrangling and
false starts. Simultaneously, Ozone
Park residents are suing the city to
stop a proposed shelter for men at what
was once a local school.
Meanwhile, trying to get information
from the DHS about shelter
proposals is like pulling teeth from a
crocodile. They typically send to the
media a boilerplate statement about
the city’s homelessness crisis followed
by background information about
the problem locally. It takes repeated
contacts to get more important details
for a specifi c shelter site.
They’re not even properly communicating
with lawmakers. One aide to
a local elected offi cial, familiar with
the Glendale shelter proposal, told
us that they only found out that DHS
ruled out a proposed alternate shelter
site aft er reading about that in a report
It’s this kind of nonsense that feeds
a super-cynical view of government
shared by many people, regardless
of political leaning. They feel that the
DHS, and the de Blasio administration,
will just do as it pleases regardless of
what they say.
Queens residents may never approve
a homeless shelter on a block,
but they would respect a city agency
being upfront with them from the beginning
— and taking their concerns
seriously. Instead, the city’s leaving
residents feeling diminished and, as
a result, angry.
The de Blasio administration and
the DHS must do better for the city’s
homeless, and for the people asked to
help accommodate them.
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Glendale residents protest a proposed homeless shelter in 2013.