City may swap Sunset Park ‘homeless hotels’ with permanent shelters • Brooklyn Paper

City may swap Sunset Park ‘homeless hotels’ with permanent shelters

Solutions, not shelters: More than 200 people from across the city came out on Oct. 15 to the Sunset Park rally against hotels in the area housing the homeless, and criticized local politicians for their lack of action in the issue.
Photo by Jordan Rathkopf

Sunset Park could see a boom in shelters as the city scales back its use of homeless hotels.

Mayor DeBlasio aims to move the indigent out of more than 2,000 hotel rooms the city has been renting on a month-by-month basis and replace the lost units with 90 new shelters, prioritizing nabes with a lack of homeless services, according to a new plan by the city.

But the plan warns that neighborhoods crammed with inns temporarily housing the itinerants — such as Sunset Park — should expect new shelters nearby to take their place. And locals who have slammed the city for warehousing hundreds of homeless in Sunset Park hotels are outraged that the nabe will now being targeted to host permanent shelters.

“When I heard the proposal, I couldn’t believe it,” said Delvis Valdes, an activist with the group Village of Sunset Park. “How is it possible that Sunset Park has been saddled with five homeless hotels — de facto shelters — and now they’re trying to give us more? Every neighborhood should be benefited and burdened by city facilities, and if they’re saying they want to have a more equal distribution, than why would we get more shelters?”

Sunset Park only has one official homeless shelter — a controversial home for single men on 49th Street between Second and Third avenues — but last year the city’s Department of Homeless Services began quietly renting rooms in five area inns without alerting locals, according to Community Board 7 district manager Jeremy Laufer.

The nabe accounts for less than two percent of the city’s population, but the 209 hotel rooms that the city has booked in Sunset Park account for 10 percent of all the units that house the city’s homeless, according to city data. On average, rooms house two or three people, meaning between 400 and 600 homeless are living in Sunset Park hotels, according to a city rep at a meeting of CB7’s ad hoc Committee on Homelessness on Jan. 5.

Hizzoner’s new plan aims to pare down the city’s whopping 57,500 homeless by 2,500 by the end of 2021, and stop using hotels to house the homeless by 2023. The units will be replaced by 90 new shelters opened over the next five years — 25 through new construction — with a focus on distributing them more evenly throughout the city, according to the report.

Amongst the new shelters, 20 will roll out in 2017 and 20 in 2018. At the moment, four are slated for Brooklyn, two in Crown Heights, one in Prospect Heights, and on in Coney Island, according to a spokesman with the Department of Homeless Services.

The agency did not respond to questions on where in Sunset Park the city aims to open shelters, when the shelters are expect to open, and whether any of the hotels where the city rents rooms for homeless will be converted into shelters. The lack of information is just more of the same, said one local.

“I think shelters and homeless hotels have honestly just become an inescapable part of Sunset Park that they throw on us with little info,” said lifelong Sunset Parker Silvia Velasquez, who lives near what was supposed to be a Howard Johnson hotel but is now renting 41 rooms to transients. “We’ve fought the city on this tooth and nail, and even when the city says it will stop using hotels, in some way, shape, or form, Sunset Park always seems to be back on the table for homeless facilities.”

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Concerned: Sunset Parkers are worried that a temporary family shelter on 24th Street near Fourth Avenue will be a permanent addition to the neighborhood.
Community News Group / Caroline Spivack

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