Citywide coalition to tackle shelter issue
by Austin Havens-Bowen
Feb 13, 2019 | 1139 views | 0 0 comments | 65 65 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Ozone Park Residents Block Association met with elected officials and civic organizations on Friday to strategize ways to push forward as one organization to prevent the over 90 homeless shelters proposed for residential areas across the city.

“We want to be proactive people so we can all live in a safer environment,” said Sam Esposito, who organized the summit in less than a week. “This summit can change the way we do things and the way we are looked at.”

By the end of the night, attendees had moved to create the 5 Boro Coalition. The executive board was also elected, with Esposito as president, Egidio Joseph Sementilli as vice chair of the Bronx, Christopher Banks as vice chair of Brooklyn, Oz Sultann serving as vice chair of Manhattan.

The next summit is scheduled for February 23 in Brooklyn. Board members to represent Queens and Staten Island will be voted on then.

The Home Stability Support (HSS) plan was the main focus of last week’s meeting. The legislation proposes a new rent supplement to individuals and families who receive public assistance and are homeless, facing eviction or are at risk of losing their home.

“We are in the worst state of homelessness since the Great Depression,” said Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, who is sponsoring the bill. “There are 63,000 homeless individuals sheltered in Queens every night.”

HSS was passed last year, but Governor Andrew Cuomo did not fund the plan in his budget. However, Hevesi argued that the cost of the program is one-third of the cost of opening and operating a shelter. If HSS is passed, it would replace all existing rent supplements.

According to Hevesi, four of the five borough presidents and 42 City Council members support of the program.

The second big topic at the summit was the need for communities to be properly notified of the placement of homeless shelters in their neighborhoods. Residents said homeless shelters are opening seemingly overnight with no community input.

“We need a seat at the table and we need to know what’s going in our neighborhood before it gets shoved on us,” said Councilman Robert Holden.

State Senator James Sanders, who was absent from the meeting but sent a representative to speak on his behalf, has introduced a bill that give communities input on the siting of homeless shelters, detention centers and halfway houses.

“Members of our communities best know their needs and capacities, and they must be involved in the process of determining what goes on within their borders,” Sanders said in a statement.
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