Van Dam St. Homeless Shelter Angers Residents at Thursday night meeting

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The Department of Homeless Services Meeting held on Thursday, March 15th, at the St Raphael’s Church located at 3520 Greenpoint Ave. included a heated debate between the enraged community of Blissville over the third shelter being reinstated in the area, and the DHS Queens Manager Amanda Nasner and a panel from DHS.

The new homeless shelter, tentatively named the Northstar Shelter, is intended to open this month for 154 adult families at the Fairfield Inn at 52-34 Van Dam St.  DHS did stay late Thursday to ensure that every person who wanted to speak and address the panel was heard. The Chairman of Community Board #2, Denise Keehan-Smith monitored the public meeting between the community and DHS .

DHS claimed that the homeless shelter in Blissville shelter would not be permanent. But many at this meeting told DHS that they had lost trust with the administration. Local resident Jack Wallace said, “Part of the problem is that I don’t trust DHS. You proved not to be trustworthy by what happened at the Pan Am Hotel. They were told that the shelter there wouldn’t be permanent. They moved in overnight. The people of Jackson Heights were lied to. Now it’s a permanent shelter. There’s no transparency at DHS. No honesty. No communication. No respect.”

One resident stated, “My name is Sam and I stand for Sunnyside. There’s a saying in baseball, ‘if you build it they will come.’ But our community is too small for a hotel shelter. We don’t want what happened at other hotel shelters to happen here.”

President of the Hunter Point Civic Association in Long Island City, Brent O’Leary said, “We are not against the homeless. We are willing to do our part. But this is not a good location for another shelter. Blissville is a such a small town that a homeless shelter in the area will overwhelm the residents.” The small town of Blissville has little over 300 residents.

post by Crystal Wolfe

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