Homeless outreach program in Penn Station temporarily shuttered

A state report has found that outreach services for the homeless in Penn Station have been woeful.

The nonprofit Bowery Residents Committee (BRC) has operated, in coordination with Amtrak and the MTA, an office and assists homeless individuals inside Penn Station.

However, the office has been closed temporarily after an audit by State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found that the BRC was not doing the outreach it was hired to do.

Some of the things the audit found:

-Homeless seeking services ignored. On multiple days, auditors saw numerous instances of workers ignoring homeless people knocking on the door of the outreach office in Penn Station, where they sometimes hung a “closed” sign on the door even though outreach workers were inside.  On one visit the closed sign had a message "Don't worry you can still reach us!" with a phone number for the homeless person to call.

-Workers kept outreach office closed to homeless. On one visit, around 1 p.m., workers inside the outreach office put up a sign saying closed until 7 a.m. Not long after, two homeless individuals came seeking services. One chose to sit and wait. At 1:51 p.m., outreach staff, who were still in the office, replaced the sign with one that said the team was out of the office and to “locate an officer within the station."


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-Homeless left unassisted. During another visit auditors saw multiple unserved homeless posing potential hazards to themselves and LIRR riders. Four were lying on the floor, including two stretched across a busy passageway and one sleeping in front of a MetroCard machine. Auditors observed a worker leave the outreach office and post a sign saying outreach workers were on the floor in orange jackets, though none were in sight.

The audit from New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's office found that workers under the contract spent about 26 percent of their time doing actual outreach and half their time was spend in the office.

In a follow-up audit, the MTA said it was taking steps to oversee the BRC’s work, while Amtrak says that repairs are being made to the entrance of the office and that it will reopen once they are finished.