Let's get all the facts first, please


To the editor:

(re: “Biz owners fear mixing kids, shelter,” Oct. 28)

Here we go again: “I want to help homeless people, and I believe they should have a place to sleep and eat at night. But I’m worried about the (location of the shelter) being so close to my business.”

That is the best example of the “not in my backyard” opposition.

We do not yet know who will be living in the shelter at 6661 Broadway. All we know is that the facility will be for homeless men. Homelessness is usually due to the lack of affordable housing and a lack of employment opportunities, including employment at a living wage.

Other factors that contribute to more individuals becoming homeless are a lack of affordable health care, domestic violence and mental illness. Addiction to drugs and alcohol often, but not always, can result — or be exacerbated — when an individual becomes homeless.

Shouldn’t we, as a caring society, at least give these individuals a chance to improve their lives and work toward a solution to reduce — if not end — the number of homeless people? By just saying “no,” without getting all the facts or working on ways to get to “yes,” the problems of homelessness get deeper.

In my years of working with homeless individuals, I have seen that — with the right support — the lives of many homeless individuals can be turned around. As human beings — and our neighbors — they deserve the respect and dignity we are all entitled to.

I was unable to attend the recent community board meeting when this proposal was presented. There was another community board meeting scheduled for this past Monday to further discuss the proposal. Let’s get all the information before we jump to decisions based on misconceptions.

How many individuals will be served, and what will their living environment look like? What social services will be provided? What security will be provided? Who will provide the services needed? Will they be merely sheltered, or supported?

These are some of the issues that need to be discussed so that we can advocate on behalf of these individuals — and our communities — to find a solution to homelessness for all of us.

John Benfatti

The author is the emergency overnight shelter coordinator for the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture

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John Benfatti,