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Ozone Park residents oppose homeless center at rowdy meeting

During a press conference on the drop-in center in October, Ruben Wills shakes hands with a homeless woman who wandered into the event and defended people like herself who use the shelter system.
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South Queens residents used a town hall meeting to voice their disdain for the proposed Ozone Park drop-in center. The meeting, hosted by Councilman Ruben Wills (D- Jamaica) was filled with tension.

Residents were totally against the proposed 100-32 Atlantic Ave. transitional home, just 250 feet away from the High School for Construction, Trades, Engineering and Architecture, saying the quality of life would drop and threatened the safety of the children.

The proposed transitional home would be run by the non-profit Breaking Grounds, which has several locations in all five boroughs. Breaking Grounds is a street outreach program that provides supportive temporary housing to the homeless while helping them find permanent housing. During their stay, the organization provides them with food, medical care and a place to sleep.

The panel of workers from the city Department of Homeless Services and Breaking Grounds tried to have an open conversation with residents but were constantly interrupted by jeers and chants saying “Put the shelter by your house!” and “Liar” most of the time they spoke. The frustrated crowd of about 150 people would randomly start yelling and groaning incoherently anytime something was said that was not agreed upon.

Wills acted more like a referee than a host, having to remind the crowd to allow the panel to finish answering questions at least 25 times throughout the night. Toward the end of the night Wills and the panel appeared to give up trying to have a civil conversation.

The biggest concern about the shelter was its proximity to the high school and the threat of sex offenders. DHS reassured residents that any possible sex offenders would be screened, but that was not enough to calm the crowd.

During the Q&A segment the same question was asked at least 10 times by members of the audience and received the same answer. Residents kept asking why this location? They were told repeatedly that different locations were scouted, but this fit the criteria for space, an answer that enraged the crowd.

A representative for DHS told the crowd that the agency’s decision was not finalized for this location and it was willing to look elsewhere, but so far the Atlantic Ave. site was the best suited for the drop-in center. He said winter is coming and a decision has to be reached soon, and so far there were no better alternatives.

Towards the end the DHS and Breaking Ground workers were clearly tired and refused to repeat themselves.

Marian Moore, assistant commissioner for street outreach for DHS, explained the difference between the drop-in center and a homeless shelter. She said the drop-in center was meant to combat homelessness in the area, not just house people without a place to live.

“The main primary focus of outreach is to get those folks off the street,” she said. “Those folks may be older adults who are medically frail so within the Queens community right now we don’t have any facilities to meet their needs, we don’t have any drop-ins, we don’t have any safe havens. Oftentimes the street homeless won’t go in a shelter for different reasons and we like to provide a threshold for them so they can come inside and get off the street. Sometimes these models actually save lives. It’s a warm space, a place where they can come in and shower , talk to someone and get services, get connected to income entitlements , and eventually get housing. That’s our main goal.”

Stanley Shuckman, the owner of the shopping center directly across the proposed drop-in center, told the panel that he appreciated the proposal but just not in that location.

“I believe all of the people here are here because they have big hearts,” he said. “They’re worried about their families and their communities. Knowing that these people took the time to come here is proof that everyone of them feels exactly as you do about your program, except you re just putting it in the wrong place.” He offered to help DHS and Breaking Grounds find an alternative location, much to the delight of residents. DHS agreed to talk to work with him.

At the end of the meeting it was clear that people were not satisfied. DHS and Breaking Grounds promised to continue to look at alternative sites, but made it clear that if they could not find one soon, more than likely the Ozone Park location would be converted into a transitional home this winter.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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Reader feedback

Save our Children from Ozone Park says:
It was over 300 people at the meeting. Children needs a safe haven!! The Homeless facility is next to the high school. No vetting was done when selecting this location, such as the proximity to schools or residential homes. Breaking Ground is endangering hundreds of kids walking to and from schools. Breaking Ground management is looking at the millions $$$ instead of children safety. I guess 125 adults is more important than the community children. It’s a minority community with no homeless problem!! Since there’s no homelessness in the community, the 125 adults will be bus into the neighborhood.
Nov. 11, 2016, 4:33 pm
Stage homelessness from Queens says:
If the lady in the picture is homeless? then I must be doing something wrong - working 2 job and can't dress like her. Also it was pointed out at the press conference that Lady was not from the community!!
Nov. 11, 2016, 4:37 pm
Lou from Bayside says:
I thought paul bearer the manager of the undertaker had passed away ?
Nov. 11, 2016, 5:27 pm
Guy from Ozone Park says:
Completely agree with the previous respondent, since when did 125 homeless adults come before our children who have to pass this facilty everyday to and from school. What if one of these guys forget their medication and decide to attack one of our children then will they factor in our children's livies.
Nov. 11, 2016, 8:12 pm
Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
Well, after the horrible news we got on election day of a rump presidency, which will more than likely see our country go back to the dark ages, it is more than positive to see all members, regardless of race, religion, etc come together in unity to opposed yet another homeless facility in a Queens neighborhood, Ozone Park.

Ozone Park made up of mostly families and many homeowners of all different races has no homeless in their community, yet the powers that be want to shove another homeless facility, which can see traffic of around 125 individuals into this community and to make matters even worse place it 250 feet from a school. These people are pissed off and for good reason, a facility such as this which can see people dropping in and out at all hours without any curfew, is putting 125 people before an entire community of hard working tax paying people. Again this is NOT an attack on homeless, but the continuous failure of this deBlasio administration and DHS to properly take care of homeless people as opposed to warehousing and dumping them in communities all over Queens.

I wonder how many of those a-holes sitting at the head table who want to place this shelter in Ozone Park, how many of them have shelters in their community that they live on let alone on their block.

The failure of addressing the homeless issue in NYC and other cities is the problem, not people voicing their concerns for the safety of their community. AND again where is the unethical Queens Borough President a-hole Melinda Katz, who has NO homeless shelters in her community of Forest Hills or on her block. It is time for these elected officials and other leaders to start walking the talk and start placing these facilities on your damn blocks. LEAD by example or get the F**K OUT out of office.

GOOD FOR YOU OZONE PARK FOLKS!!

https://cleanupjamaicaqueens.wordpress.com/
Nov. 12, 2016, 11:04 am
Calindro from Queens says:
Herein lies the problem: deblasio, cuomo, and associates have made it their goal to hyper-gentrify nyc, kicking out as many non-whites and low incomes from their homes wherever they find them. This alone increases the rise of homelessness and despairing poverty across the city's boroughs. Look around you---you have to have a real sight problem if you can't see that through the past several years more and more land has been grabbed by so-called 'developers', businesses have disappeared, and the citizenry is left holding nothing more than a suitcase. The Katz woman is a fraud who will bleat about 'social justice' yet is complicit in this hyper-gentrifying process of our land and residential areas. Avoiding to vote for these types will see a more healthy city and state that hasn't been for years. NY has been labeled the most corrupt in the nation because of these lowly give-me politicians.
Nov. 13, 2016, 5:29 am
Joe from Richmond Hill says:
Gina Martinez, you need to report on the facts!!! You asked anyone that attended the Town hall and they will tell you over 300 people was at Townhall - how did you get a count of 150?
Nov. 14, 2016, 9:20 am
felipe from queens says:
Awful 'news' site with poor documentation and false reporting. Won't be coming back here. bleh.
Nov. 17, 2016, 4:19 pm
Sandra from Ozone park says:
I personally think homeless shelter should be in different location, The kids are the future for this country ,we the people need to protect and care for them we need to see the kids are save in ozone park community,I want to let the non-profit origination knows if they care for the homeless people so much they should also care for the kids in ozone park community as well .
Nov. 18, 2016, 9:48 am

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