An Important Zoom Thursday at 5:30: Homeless Shelters and Community Relationships

Shams DaBaron, a resident of The Lucerne, will talk with Ruth Messinger tonight.

By Carol Tannenhauser

With the election (almost) behind us, Upper West Siders are turning their attention back to local issues — chief among them, homelessness. What is the fairest, most humane and effective way of helping those experiencing homelessness during a pandemic, while taking into account the effects of placing a homeless shelter in a community, real and perceived?

The Upper Wide Side is learning the hard way. The transformation of four local commercial hotels into temporary homeless shelters this summer set off a firestorm of protest and counter protest, media, legal and political activity that has divided the community and thrust us into the center of a citywide, national and international debate. The UWS even became a Republican talking point!

Tonight, Thursday, at 5:30 p.m., former borough president and 50-year advocate for social justice on the Upper West Side, Ruth Messinger, will explore these events and their implications in a conversation with Shams DaBaron, a.k.a Da Homeless Hero, a resident of The Lucerne hotel, who knows firsthand the workings and weaknesses of NYC’s homeless shelter system and its use of commercial hotels.

“With the current crisis at hand, we wanted to zoom out a little and think about the issues at large and about models for providing services,” wrote Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann in an email to WSR. Her synagogue, SAJ, is one of the primary organizers of tonight’s event. “We wanted to then think a bit about community relations and also zone in on the Lucerne. We hope that this program will not be only for those who support or are active with the Lucerne already, rather that they would also be for those who are unsure, have complicated feelings or want to learn more. ”

Register to join the 5:30 Zoom conversation here.

Other primary organizers are B’nai Jeshurun and the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, who are working on a series of educational programs together. Sponsors include Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York, St. Paul & St. Andrew, Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim, Base MNHTN, Interfaith Assembly on Housing and Homelessness, Manhattan Church of Christ, The Jewish Center, Broadway United Church of Christ, Romemu, Rutgers Presbyterian Church, West End Synagogue, Darkhei Noam.

NEWS | 29 comments | permalink
    1. ZoomZ says:

      This issue will stay with us for months and years to come.
      The homeless folks are here to stay.
      The courts will rule in their favor.
      All others, suck it up and learn to live with this fact of life.

    2. Nonsense says:

      Ruth Messenger is 80 years old and the last time she’s has been activated it was 1997. Give me a break.
      And I don’t praise her work way back then.
      Let the city take it’s course with the Homeless is a lot of energy that can be used in other places other than the Homeless on the Upper West Side. Clearly this is something that the complainers have nothing else to do.
      Live and let live!

    3. Otis says:

      I don’t know what this Zoom will accomplish. These are all liberal organizations that are supportive of these shelters.

      There should be people and organizations with opposing views. I don’t see any on this list of “primary organizers”.

      Opponents of these shelters have very legitimate concerns that will likely not be addressed at this meeting. Zoom is worthless without opposing viewpoints.

      • Time on my hands 🙌 says:

        Otis, there’s a lot of people here on the Upper West Side that have a lot of time on their hands to do nothing. Evidently the WSR keeps them busy doing nothing but complaining…..and no one listening 👂 it’s been this way for years.
        Enjoy the humor‼️

    4. Q says:

      I don’t need to learn more. They would be better served downtown with their own rooms, on-site services and closer to their medical community. We already have more shelter beds than many other communities. FAIR SHARE PEOPLE, FAIR SHARE. The city agrees.

    5. Joy says:

      So faith leaders are co-hosting an event with the newly self-anointed representative of all those struggling with homelessness everywhere? Have these leaders even spoken with the other men who, unlike Shams da Baron, do not benefit from a single room at the Lucerne and constant media attention and a pending book deal with the Open Hearts lady? I’m sure Ruth Messinger will be as “objective” as always… Look back at the history between SAJ and Project Renewal and Gale and Helen, and while you’re at it, Helen and hotels. It’s disgusting. The JCC has really lost it, among others.

      • HelenD says:

        If Open Hearts really wants to help the homeless then it would be nice if they would shift some of their focus to the people living on the street. The woman by TJ’s seems to be a permanent fixture now, literally ‘living’ in the middle of the sidewalk, Karl and the man (still) laying in front of Victoria’s Secret are in serious need of help. I haven’t seen TieDyeGuy for weeks, but one of his buddies is sleeping by the Pier One Cafe and he appears to be in very poor health, and the other man (well over 6′ tall and very intimidating) has taken over TDG’s duties of screaming at women and little girls up and down 72nd street from WEA to Columbus on a daily basis. When is this ever going to end?!

        • Underground Man says:

          Interestingly, Tye Dye Guy moved in behind Wells Fargo across from Lux early last summer, and he was fairly mild mannered, but in October he was screaming and grabbing at folks up by North Face. I haven’t seen him in about a month. Hopefully he is getting mental health services. I don’t miss him though.

          • HelenD says:

            I didn’t realize that TDG had moved over by Wells Fargo. The taller man in the group was very abusive toward him so possibly that’s why he left his spot on 72nd. Whatever the case I also hope he’s getting the services that he needs.

      • Da Homeless Hero says:

        I rarely respond to ignorance but if you know anything about me then you would know that I am definitely not new to being in the press and I don’t need anyone to give me a book deal when I have award-winning documentaries in the marketplace produced by me. And when we win Monday you will know that the majority of men here agree with me.

    6. Anon says:

      I would like to begin by fully confessing that I am an extreme lefty libtard. If Antifa was actually real, I would probably be in it. I feel inspired to report an incident that happened across from my building on W 71st this morning, and since I can’t find a “Letter to the Editor” section, I will just put it here because there is a chance the incident was related to homelessness.

      A man was detained by approximately 8 police officers. At the beginning of the incident, he was screaming loud enough for me to notice, even though I was across the street, six floors up, behind closed windows, and wearing headphones. Distracted and concerned, I decided to watch the entire scene as it unfolded. Here is what I witnessed.

      The officers were completely professional. The deescalated and calmed the man brilliantly. The officers were kind and gentle. They took their time, carefully put a mask on the man to protect him from covid, and a few minutes later when he complained, the adjusted the mask to make it more comfortable. They treated the man with respect like a human being. This entire situation lasted at least a half hour, and not once did I see the Police do anything that wasn’t absolutely professional.

      I am sure that this sort of incident happens hundreds of times a day on the UWS, so why do I feel compelled to testify? There have been so many negative reports, images, etc. for the last few years about the police that I think it is extremely important that people point out that officers are amazing professionals who do an incredible job protecting and serving the community. Am I naive and assume that nothing ever goes wrong? No. Bad things happen in every organization, however, I have been on the UWS for years, and my only complaint is that there used to be a lot more officers around, and I miss them. I have been on tours before and been in other cities for extended periods of time, and noticed that many police departments have been militarized (Seattle and Portland especially), but in NYC, I feel that the officers are extremely professional, and at the same time regular good people who are part of the community. I really appreciate them, and I hope you do as well.

      What is sad is that I feel as if I have to write this anonymously because my group of friends and colleagues would excommunicate me immediately if they found out I wrote this.
      Anyhow, thank you UWS police officers for everything.

      • WSR says:

        The above comment was deemed worth of posting despite its length.

      • blacklikeu says:

        “If Antifa was actually real, I would probably be in it”.

        I got news from you Mr/Mrs Anon:
        Antifa IS real.
        If you prefer to believe that it ain’t so – OK, so I say the sky is always purple and the sea is bright pink.
        And your observation of the police shows that you are not entirely blind.

      • Kate says:

        Perhaps you should find better, saner friends and colleagues if they would excommunicate you over this.

      • James Brummel says:

        “I would like to begin by fully confessing that I am an extreme lefty libtard.”

        I think you are lying. That is why you won’t use your name. I just don’t find it believable that you could have these beliefs and none of your friends know it, like some deep dark secret.

      • Briant Judkins says:

        This is awesome. Going out on a social limb speaks volumes to your character, but also demonstrates how caustic living in a single narrative world is…. Your friends are not bad by any means, they are a product of these times like everyone else is all. It’s truly refreshing to see that critical thinking and authenticity still exists.

      • James Brummel says:

        I was reading this again and wondering why it is here, which again makes me doubt its authenticity. This Zoom event had nothing to do with police brutality or BLM. This story has nothing to do with homelessness or the Lucerne.

        Ive seen this before in activists, they insert their core beliefs into any conversation regardless of topic.

        I don’t think WSR should allow anonymous content. WSR is not a bank or hospital. These aren’t tips about crimes.

        • Anon says:

          I don’t really consider myself to be an activist–I consider myself to be an opera singer. I was just trying to say something nice about the UWS police and I apologize James that it has somehow upset you so much. I hope you can get over it someday.

    7. CrankyPants says:

      Just more (virtual) hot air. Stick with the plan to relocate these folks to where they can get better services and UWS residents & business can try to reclaim some semblance of normalcy in these already tough times.

      • Da Homeless Hero says:

        Just for clarities sake, the Radisson is a hotel just as the Lucerne is. The notion that there are better services there is a lie. It’s an empty building… Much of what has come to the Lucerne in terms of services has been brought about via my advocacy and the OHI with the support of Project Renewal. There are no services at the Radisson, it’s a hotel and nothing more…

      • Da Homeless Hero says:

        The Radisson is a hotel just as the Lucerne is. The notion that there are better services there is a lie. It’s an empty building… Much of what has come to the Lucerne in terms of services has been brought about via my advocacy and the OHI with the support of Project Renewal. There are no services at the Radisson, it’s a hotel and nothing more…

    8. brandonsos says:

      The question in the community isn’t whether the homeless should be housed in UWS hotels. I actually don’t have a problem with housing the homeless in the Lucerne and other UWS hotels and I do believe we should treat the homeless humanely and compassionately. The real issue is whether progressives like Gale Brewer really want to treat all people compassionately when she calls Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, who supported profiling of Muslims and was against mosques being opened, a “first rate human being” who should be NYC Deputy Mayor after 2021. Police profiling Muslims is NOT progressive and treating all people with dignity.

    9. Leon says:

      The issue at hand is law enforcement. UWSers would look more kindly on our new neighbors if they all behaved in a neighborly way. Unfortunately, there was a small but noticeable number of them who did not. And the combination of insufficient efforts to change their behavior and the inability of police to enforce quality of life crimes made it a real problem. Police need to be enabled to do their jobs properly.

      This would be a more meaningful conversation than the extreme left out-virtuing each other and shouting down any reasonable moderate as a racist Trump-loving Nazi.

      • Will says:

        We tried quality of life policing and it killed Eric Garner, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo. Propose another idea. Also consider not everyone feels the same way about quality of life issues. What bothers one person the next person pays no mind to. You only started to hear that term more and more as certain folks started moving back from the suburbs after their parents fled in the 60’s.

    10. ST says:

      The UES has next to no shelter beds and we have 1300. What is up with that?

    11. ES says:

      I don’t think the issue is “anti-homelessness,” despite that being the buzz word every progressive gloms onto, but rather opposition towards negative anti-social behaviors that some, not all, but some of this population has imposed onto others in the neighborhood. The UWS has always had a number of homeless and maintained lots of different kinds of supportive housing facilities. Homelessness is certainty not new to the UWS. The corresponding increase in crime, violence or other episodes that seem connected to untreated/under treated mental illness, flagrant illegal drug use, drug dealing, lewd behaviors, aggressive street begging, destruction of property, all things that seem to have shot up following the arrival of the hotel shelters, is where I and many other residents object. To be supportive of helping the homeless must you agree to take on all the other baggage that comes with them? Is it reasonable to expect that new members of a community behave in ways that allow them to integrate into the community? If they are unable to be held responsible for their behaviors, is it reasonable to expect the agencies who are being compensated to provide services to do so with concern for the impact to the local community? Or is this something the neighborhood just has to absorb for fear of being called a host of names. Why does it have to be a zero sum game?

    12. LuxuryHousing4Ever says:

      I was so relieved to see that the JCC was a sponsor of this event. The JCC is a huge organization with immense resources. I assume they will be deploying some of those resources soon to employ many of these men currently housed at luxury hotels and also to commence offering services for them at their enormous facility. I have little doubt they are already looking into this. The housing that is being provided in these luxury hotels is only temporary so we need to start thinking about more long term solutions and it seems like the JCC should be able to transform part of their facility into housing and help with that? Just a thought. I am sure there are other options that an entity with the resources of the JCC could implement. JCC, are you out there? Please let us know what your plan to help support these men beyond just advocating to keep them in luxury hotels.