On Wednesday evening, dozens of activists, housing rights advocates, and community organizers gathered in front of a Bronx homeless shelter to protest the deplorable conditions its residents face and demand that the city end its contract with the company that runs it.
Last year, a four year old boy died in the stairwell of 976 Tinton Avenue, likely after eating rat poison that was placed there. A report from the city's Department of Investigation released earlier this spring called the facility “unacceptable… filthy, badly maintained and with garbage in the common areas," and the building currently has 125 open violations of health and safety codes. Rat infestations are common, as is peeling paint and poor ventilation.
Despite the unhygienic conditions of such poorly maintained facilities, the city pays the shelter site's provider, Aguila, Inc., $2,500 per unit each month. Since 2013, Aguila has received more than $60 million in taxpayer funding to operate its shelters.
“These shelter providers don’t want you to be human," Tyrone Christopher, a member of Picture the Homeless, said in a statement. “They’re destroying you psychologically. There are days when there is no hot water or no heat. Aguila has shirked their responsibility and contractual agreements. The money that is being spent at the moment could be better used to fix up these shelters and turn them back into permanent housing.”
Last August, Aguila moved to evict hundreds of homeless families from their site at 941 Intervale, seemingly to protest the fact that the city wanted to decrease the amount of subsidies to the company.
Eventually, the protesters marched ten blocks to Aguila's headquarters on Caldwell Avenue, chanting "Shelter dollars are poorly spent, give us money to pay our rent!"
The group was unable to present their demands to any representative of the Aguila housing management staff, as a security guard denied that any staffers were present.
Eventually, two police officers arrived to investigate the protest's obstruction of the entry to the building, and minutes later, six members of Aguila's management staff wordlessly exited through the side door, refusing to acknowledge the outcry that awaited them and promptly leaving the scene both on foot and in vehicles.