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Moving inn: Men’s homeless shelter taking over Williamsburg hostel

Gimme shelter: The city is converting a chic Williamsburg hostel into a shelter for homeless men over 55 years old.
Community News Group / Dennis Lynch

It is a hostel takeover in Williamsburg.

A homeless shelter operator will turn a Varet Street hostel into a 140-bed refuge for men over the age of 55 by the end of the month, according to the city, leaving some neighbors uneasy that it will put local families and workers and in danger.

“I’m really concerned — I have two kids, we hang outside sometimes,” said Vanessa Pacini, who runs a neighboring cafe, where she also lives with her husband and two kids. “I have one worker, she’s a girl, she closes the cafe at 9, 9:30 — do I have to worry about her being out there at that time?”

Provider Project Renewal will take over the New York Loft Hostel between Bogart and White streets — a popular lodging for travelling hipsters — to run the shelter, as first reported by Bushwick Daily.

The shelter will treat residents for medical, psychiatric, and substance abuse problems in-house, as well as providing job training, according to a Department of Homeless Services release. Refuge dwellers are “expected” to stay about nine months, and the organization will try to help them find permanent housing.

The outfit is putting some security measures in place, according to the city — residents will have a 10 pm curfew, eat all their meals at the facility, and no sex offenders will be allowed to stay there, the agency said.

Security guards will be on site around the clock, and will also patrol outside the facility when Williamsburg Charter High School a block away opens and closes, the city said

Project Renewal also intends to hire locals to fill 24 positions at the shelter, and will hold “regular” meetings with community members where they can air any concerns or issues they have, according to the release.

But some locals said communication hasn’t been great so far — Pacini and others say they only heard about the shelter last week via word-of-mouth or through the Bushwick Daily post, though the department says it invited homeowners, community board members, and officials to a meeting about the plan on July 11.

Several neighbors said they nevertheless understand that the city needs to create new shelters and they have to go somewhere — one resident is even happy about the new facility, which she cautiously hopes could help stave off the area’s rapid gentrification.

“Initially, I thought it sucked, because they have a nice place there, but maybe that will keep things in check — so that it can’t go too ‘luxury,’ ” photographer and four-year resident Eva Mueller said. “So in a way I find it good this is happening because the area is changing a lot and getting expensive.”

But it was unwelcome news for others — one longtime denizen believes the shelter tenants will bring crime back to an area that has been getting safer in recent years.

“It’s just going to bring us more problems,” said the lifelong resident and 22-year homeowner who declined to give his name. “They will be going around stealing packages and trying to break into cars, trying to steal from people near the [Morgan Avenue L train station].”

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.

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