The Department of Homeless Services is riling up Upper West Siders this week, moving 200 homeless families into two low-income apartment buildings on West 95th Street. While the city does have a program that works to create emergency shelters for a burgeoning homeless population, the 71 residents of 316 and 330 West 95th Street were apparently not informed that nearly 400 homeless individuals would be moving into their buildings until an announcement yesterday morning that the first few shelter units were to be filled later in the day. And the DHS plan was only presented to an unhappy Community Board 7 on July 19. "The way this whole situation has transpired is very alarming…it seems like it's a plan that hasn't been thought out," Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal told DNAinfo, pointing out that the two buildings are "not equipped to handle people who are chemically addicted or mentally ill."
And the building residents are equally distressed about the influx of new, needy neighbors, noting that the DHS had housed 200 homeless men at both addresses for a so-called temporary move in November 2009 that lasted until last summer. During that period, neighbors say fights used to break out "all the time," and while the DHS promised to provide additional security and on-site services for the new shelter, such measures have not yet been put in place. "We're absolutely furious about it," Leonard Peters, a resident, told the Post. "No one was told anything at all." Surprise! The new arrangement is a win for the buildings' owners, however, who will reportedly receive about $3,000 a month per family in each small, 150-square-foot space.
Meanwhile, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, along with area bigwigs like Rosenthal and City Council Member Gale Brewer, have blasted the DHS for virtually dumping homeless families into already-occupied buildings with little warning, and are asking officials to suspend the plan. "New Yorkers understand that all neighborhoods share in the responsibility to provide housing to those in need," Stringer said in a statement. "But abruptly moving a 400-person shelter into a residential neighborhood in the dead of summer with no community consultation, no contract and no long-term plan only creates bad will and sets back the cause of fighting homelessness." Of course, with the number of New Yorkers sleeping in homeless shelters on an alarming rise this year, there are no easy solutions.