Kingsbridge, city really need this homeless center


(re: “Outrage erupts over homeless shelter,” July 20)

I disagree with the letter to the editor (re: “We don’t want a shelter here,” July 27), and instead agree with your newspaper’s editorial (re: “Since when is it OK to turn our back on the homeless?” July 27) and letter to the editor (re: "Homeless? Do the right thing,” July 27).

A few days ago, on my way home, I was approached by a man on West 238th Street telling me about the homeless shelter planning to be opened in the newly constructed building on Broadway near West 236th Street.

He handed out a small flyer stating “Your family’s safety may be at risk,” which further read that the “83-unit shelter, housing up to 359 new people in Kingsbridge,” could “decrease our home values and overcrowd our schools.”

It called for action to get involved, and asking for everyone’s attendance at our Community Board 8 land use meeting July 27 at The Riverdale Y.

A different flyer a friend of mine received showed “we need to show our strength in numbers to show our opposition,” urging attendance at that same meeting.

I am confused about the messages communicated. I understand the city could have more in advance informed local politicians and the community and its board to get input before such decision (assuming there was no urgency, and they knew about it long before), however, I believe our neighborhood should welcome homeless shelters, especially ones for families with children, so those residents won’t have to live on the streets or in parks, or in other shelters that aren’t run by an organization such as the one mentioned in the article, which will provide services as well.

As everyone surely knows, there are many low-income and middle-class Americans who are only one paycheck away from losing their job and/or home due to unforeseen circumstances. Simply providing housing is only a temporary solution, but providing shelter residents with social services so they can climb out of homelessness is a great way of helping people in need — isn’t this one of America’s values, to help the less fortunate?

The flyer’s mentioning of safety is wrong. Most homeless people are not criminals (and vice versa, many criminals have homes to go back to each day).

I also don’t believe that home values will decrease. If I could afford a house, I wouldn’t mind buying and living next to a shelter, especially near one as mentioned in the article that will have 24-hour security staff present.

The east windows of that building directly face the elevated subway 1 train line. As anyone living on Broadway next to the elevated subway tracks between Dyckman and 242nd streets can attest to, no one who can afford higher-rent housing would choose to live next to loud train noises passing by every five minutes.

And if people are concerned about overcrowding in schools due to the additional children arriving, shouldn’t they instead focus their energy on our politicians to have them increase our education budgets and provide more schools?

A few decades ago, I was a homeless single man for more than a year, living in a shelter and working in an employment program before I was able to move into my own apartment in Kingsbridge, and then later in Riverdale. 

Before joining the for-profit corporate world, I worked for three different non-profit organizations, one of them, the one mentioned in the article — Praxis Housing Initiatives — will provide housing placement assistance, after-school programming, and mental health services at that shelter on Broadway.

That organization is doing a great job helping homeless people and providing services in their other sites throughout the Bronx. I met with the current chief executive of Praxis last year. 

He showed me another site his organization operates and provides services to its residents.

I was very impressed with how much his staff was doing to help the residents. 

In my opinion, a homeless shelter providing all these additional services is a welcome addition to any neighborhood. Residents who “graduate” from the services and can move out of the shelter into their own apartments or houses in our neighborhood will contribute economically to Riverdale or Kingsbridge. Isn’t that even better news?

Riverdale should be envious of Kingsbridge — for placing the shelter on Broadway instead of on Riverdale Avenue.

If the ones who object to the shelter lose their own homes or apartments, and without family and financial support were to face homelessness themselves, then would they change their opinions?

In the article, our councilman said the city must come up with “concrete measures to keep people in their homes before they become homeless.” I agree. 

After the man handed the flyer to me, he approached another person who, after hearing the news from him, told him he actually was looking for low-rent housing himself.

If the city were to provide affordable housing for each and every one who needs it, then we would need no homeless shelters.

I do hope our community will embrace the shelter after obtaining everyone’s input at the CB8 land use meeting.