Give them shelter!
Dozens of Kensington residents are collecting supplies and gifts for a controversial new homeless shelter opening across the road from an elementary school this week. Some locals are still fuming after the city abruptly announced the new refuge late last month, but the do-gooding denizens say it is time to move on and welcome their new neighbors with open arms.
“It’s here, from what I understand. That’s not gonna change, so let’s try to make the best of it,” said local resident Dina Garfinkel, who has been collecting diapers for the young children and parents that will soon move into the 64-unit shelter on McDonald Avenue.
In the weeks since the announcement, at least 125 kind-hearted Kensingtonians have cobbled together $1,500 in gift cards for a local supermarket, created 75 “welcome packets” with information about the neighborhood, and are now organizing presents and cards to send to the new residents at Christmas — a testament to local generosity, said one organizer.
“I live in the community and I knew that there were plenty of people who would want to help,” said Catherine Barufaldi, who rallied locals to volunteer their time and donations via a community Facebook page.
Some residents remain worried that the new shelter — which will be across the road from PS 230 between Albemarle Road and Church Avenue — will attract unsavory characters to the area, putting kids at risk and lowering home values. But the volunteers say they think neighbors will be less afraid when the new families actually arrive.
“Once you actually meet real people there, it’s really hard to be scared of that individual that you get into conversation with,” said Cara Kantrowitz, who has worked with homeless people in the past and has also been collecting diapers for the new shelter.
Besides, Kantrowitz said, the Park Slope Armory women’s shelter has been around for decades and doesn’t seem to have held back skyrocketing house prices in that neighborhood.
“It hasn’t seemed to hurt Park Slope any,” she said.
The operators of the new shelter say they’re touched by the outpouring of generosity — and they know the refuge’s residents will be as well.
“The response is heartwarming, and families will be delighted with the knowledge that people care about them,” said Joanne Oplustil, head honcho of social service agency Camba, which will run the refuge.
You can donate diapers for the shelter at the Flatbush and Shaare Torah Jewish Center [327 E. Fifth St. between Church Avenue and Beverly Road in Kensington, (718) 871–5200, fjcbr