Residents rally for affordable housing instead of another homeless shelter

City Council Member Gale Brewer joined the Friends of Ederle Playground and residents on West 59th Street in Manhattan to call for more affordable housing instead of another homeless shelter for women with mental illness and chemical addictions. 

They say they want permanent solutions to homelessness, not expensive quick fixes.

"What we need here is affordable, permanent housing. People can't get out of the shelter system because there is nowhere to go, so there is a bottleneck. So what we need is housing so people getting out of the shelter system can move on with their lives," resident Heather Groeger said.

The $500 million shelter was given the green light under the DeBlasio administrations and is currently under construction. 

It's expected to house 200 women, possibly with 8 to a room. 


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Those living in the high rise apartments next door are concerned about the two open air smoking courts in the design, as well as possible drug use adjacent to a heavily used public children's playground.

"I'm totally for helping homeless people, however to put homeless people who have drug abuse issues, mental issues right next to the children's playground, I think is a very bad idea," father and resident, Amjad Pervez said.

The Open Heart Initiative posted signs and sidewalk chalk messages to let the homeless know they are welcome. Organization members we spoke with live in the neighborhood but not on this particular block. They say fears of it disrupting family life are unfounded.

"There's no evidence that people will create problems for the community, and actually I think it serves as an example of what community looks like, especially being next to a place with kids," Sarah Sachs of the Open Heart Initiative Organization said.   


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Officials and housing advocates pushing for the new rules say they're necessary to protect the city’s housing stock and to stop apartments from becoming de facto hotels.

"It's really a time for everybody from all neighborhoods to be involved in the solution to homelessness which is getting people safe shelter, like this would provide," member Bennett Reinhardt added.

The opponents of the shelter insist they are not anti-homeless, but opposed to approaches they believe will not help the homeless women stabilize their lives.

"I think it's sort of ridiculous that they're not following evidence based practices. We can see trends all over the country that have shown shelters actually fail this population. Shelters do not offer any stability. They need affordable housing," Resident Rachel Nazarian, a resident and supporter of affordable housing said.