By Daniel Katzive
What ever happened to the “safe haven” for homeless men and women that was scheduled to open in late April on West 83rd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues?
Update: Tuesday, August 1, 8 a.m.: Unsheltered homeless people will begin moving into the Safe Haven on West 83rd Street as soon as today, August 1, according to Councilmember Gale Brewer, who told the Rag she learned this from Breaking Ground, the service provider for the facility, and the New York City Department of Social Services. The move in will be gradual as outreach workers identify candidates and admit them, Brewer was told, so initial occupancy could be as low as just seven of the total 108 beds. Brewer also said she expects the Community Advisory Board for the facility, composed of area residents, school administrators, representatives from the Department of Homeless Services, Breaking Ground, and Community Board 7, as well as local elected officials, to be formed and begin meeting “very soon.”
Original: When Community Board 7 voted to support the facility in early May, after an extended period of debate and shows of support and opposition by the community, they seemed to be practically endorsing a fait accompli. In fact, as the resolution was debated it seemed possible that the facility, slated to house 108 people, would be open before a vote could even be taken. But nearly three months later, it seems no rooms are yet occupied. What gives?
Visits to the site in recent weeks have seen plenty of evidence of activity, with tradesmen, security guards, and staffers wearing Breaking Ground t-shirts all in evidence. But there does not appear to be anyone living there, and the building is quiet after business hours. Neighborhood residents agree that no one seems to have moved in yet.
A spokesman for Breaking Ground, the nonprofit that will operate the facility for the city, told West Side Rag, “Breaking Ground is fully ready to operate the building once they are cleared to accept referrals from [the city’s] Department of Homeless Services (DHS).” The spokesman referred further inquiries to the department.
A spokesperson for the Department of Social Services, which oversees DHS, told WSR that the opening has been delayed by routine “logistical issues” and the facility “is not open yet but will be coming online very soon.”
Elected officials and CB7 members contacted by WSR said they do not have additional information on when the facility might open, nor do nearby residents.
Meanwhile, the neighborhood residents who came together to oppose the opening of the facility appear to have moved on to working with the building manager, who represents the owner, to negotiate what they call “safety provisions.” Maria Danzilo, a former City Council candidate who was involved in opposing the opening of the safe haven, shared a letter with WSR which she has shared with involved neighborhood residents explaining the provisions. Measures Danzilo has requested include suggested curfews for the outside areas used by the building’s residents, smoking and loitering restrictions, and sanitation, screening and security rules, among others. According to Danzilo, the building manager says Breaking Ground has agreed to most of the provisions but has not committed to the curfew and screening requirements.
WSR will update this article when we learn more about the timeline for opening the facility.
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