Homeless Shelter Protests Ramp Up As City Starts Transferring Women; ‘The Communication Has Been Terrible’

The homeless shelter at 237 West 107th Street. Photo by Megan Zerez.

Politicians are planning to rally on Monday afternoon to push back against a city plan to turn a women’s homeless shelter at 237 West 107th Street into a men’s shelter.

On Monday at 2:30 p.m., politicians including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell and City Council Member Mark Levine will speak out in front of the shelter. Locals have opposed the transition because they say they’ve built a strong relationship with the women’s shelter and fear the changes could hurt that bond. Women who live at the shelter have also said they have bonded with the community.

“This entire process has created chaos for the women in the shelter and for the entire community. It has certainly brought me to tears,” wrote outgoing Community Board 7 Chair Roberta Semer in a letter to Human Resources Administration Commissioner Steven Banks (who runs the shelters) on Friday. “The communication has been terrible, to say the least.”

One woman who lives down the block from the shelter and opposes the transition says that 40 of the 120 women housed there have been moved, though a Department of Homeless Services spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for confirmation on Sunday. A city official involved in the shelter change has previously said they hope to complete transitioning the women by the end of the month.

The city has been working to find more shelters for homeless men, an effort that may become more urgent after four men sleeping in lower Manhattan were killed on Saturday, and another homeless man was arrested for the crime. The Department of Homeless Services has not attended meetings about the local shelter, but has said in notices that it needs more beds for men.

Roberta Semer’s full letter is below:

This morning together with representatives from our elected officials we met with representatives from the Department of Homeless Services. While we appreciate that they met with us there are still too many unanswered questions and concerns.

We still don’t understand the rational for moving women out a shelter that is successful and beloved by the community. The Block Association and local house of worship has treated the women as part of their community – working with them on community projects, helping them  find jobs, becoming a second family. Often when the women move on to permanent housing they maintain relationship with people from the neighborhood. We only wish that other shelters in our community had relationships with block associations or community organizations that this one has. This entire process has created chaos for the women in the shelter and for the entire community. It has certainly brought me to tears.

The communication has been terrible, to say the least. DHS has known for a long time about the need for men’s shelters, why aren’t you building them? We want to know the numbers, where are the shelters? And what populations are in each shelter and how many more do you need to build? And what are the metrics that you use to determine the success of the shelter. Do you look at long term results?

Being homeless and needing to be in a shelter is in itself traumatic as you well know. I was reminded of our trips to Washington together with Liz Krueger and others to advocate for justice for welfare recipients.

Our hearts are breaking.

NEWS | 9 comments | permalink
    1. Sherman says:

      Is this women’s homeless shelter really “beloved by the community”.

      I find this a bit of an exaggeration.

      I believe Ms Semer is conflating tolerated with “beloved”. Her pronouncement strikes me as a bit melodramatic.

      In any case the heart of the matter is that a women’s homeless shelter is perceived as far less dangerous for the neighborhood than a men’s homeless shelter. This is why there is such fierce opposition to the plan.

      • LivesOnUWS says:

        See the comment below for proof. This is not the 1st or only statement of positivity regarding the inhabitants of the shelter.

      • Bruce E. Bernstein says:

        Sherman, why would you find it impossible that the Women’s Homeless Shelter on 107th Street is “beloved”? People have told many stories about their relationships with the women in the shelter. In at least one case, a woman was hired as a home health worker/asst by someone on the block.

        to imply that these women are “tolerated” smacks of condescension. do you “tolerate” your neighbors?

        maybe the residents of the block are proud that the facility is giving safe housing to women who nee it. maybe they see the various women as individuals and not as a blight.

        • Sherman says:

          Hi Bruce

          I don’t deny that there are a handful of people in this neighborhood who are genuinely happy about this women’s shelter. Paul Krugman touched upon this last week when he discussed his own “liberal guilt”.

          But I hardly believe the vast majority – or even a significant minority of people on this street – are in favor of this shelter. They might tolerate it but this does not mean they support it.

          You have to understand that there are young families who have paid exorbitant prices to purchase an apartment in this neighborhood. Not everyone was able to purchase their home at a rock bottom price thru a crooked inside deal.

          No matter how you justify homeless shelters they ain’t good for property values. People understandably want to protect their hard earned investments.


    2. Anne Watkins says:

      Terrific that a press conference will be held today, Oct 7 at 2:30 PM at the shelter. Thank you to Gale Brewer and our other concerned local representatives.

      This stealth switchover is ill conceived, and is being cruelly executed by DHS. It should be stopped and the women’s shelter protected.
      See you at the conference!

    3. Cyn(thia) Icke says:

      Re: “Politicians are planning to rally on Monday afternoon to push back against a city plan….”

      Well, here’s a “Talmudic” question:

      Are Ms. Brewer, Ms. Williams, et. al.:
      1. Elected NYC officials responsible for the public interest; or
      2. Just typical politicians seeking 6:00 P.M. News exposure?

      Hopefully the answer is #1, meaning they can (a) telephone the bureaucratic hacks at D.H.S. and demand they drop this plan; and/or
      (b) telephone Le Mayeurr and get His Horror to order D.H.S. to drop this idiotic plan.

      Of course, choosing #2 gets them media exposure, convincing Joe&Jane Public that these Un-Caped Crusaders are “fighting for the people”.

      Hmmmm…should we spend even a second pondering what they’ll choose to do?

    4. David Sirota says:

      Subject: Women’s Shelter Opposition to Change

      As a resident of 272 W 107th Street, please note my strong opposition to transitioning the present woman’s shelter to a men’s shelter. Our building has grown attached and supportive of our present women neighbors and they us.

      Follow me here: We watch with profound sadness the mournful theatrical scene Anatevka from Fiddler on the Roof depicting the forceful removal of the village’s inhabitants with their meager possessions perpetrated by unknown bureaucrats for no conceivable reason. At the risk of being accused of over-dramatizing what we see happening with our 107th Street women’s shelter, IS this sort of reality for our neighbors…real time, real village, real faceless oppressors, real women. STOP THIS. If you can not explain why this has to be now to these women with no alternative, this is flat out cruelty.

      Just leave well enough alone and keep our women neighbors just where they are.

    5. Ronald M Hoffman says:

      Over 40 years ago across from the International Youth Hostel on Amsterdam Avenue there were meetings for developing a building for homeless women. In general the local community had concerns, however their support was given. And again the political representatives supported housing for women. I was alone in asking a simple question…’what about housing for homeless men?” There was ZERO support for men 40 years ago at these meetings. I asked a follow up question…’is there housing for homeless men?” The answer from the housing advocate was appalling…..that women need shelter and that there is little resources for men. As a man I was sadden and shocked by this casual response from a housing advocate. What a sad statement that homeless men are still outcasts in our NYC society and even more pathetic the lack of compassion from our representatives. It’s immoral and bias to supply good clean shelter to women, but not men. I prey people like Mark Levine, a man, does not end up homeless.

      My heart is bleeding for the terrible conditions that homeless men are subjected to. What a negative statement the community and especially Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell and City Council Member Mark Levine are saying about homeless men in NY society.