On Wednesday, Crown Heights residents voiced their concerns about the newest homeless shelter, Bergen Houses, confirmed to open later this month.
The residents’ plea was for an equal distribution of shelters all around New York City, as reported by Gothamist.
One of the residents, Mr. Desmond Atkin, suggested racial discrimination as a basis for the decision by the Department of Homeless Services’ to add another facility in a community already oversaturated with and strained by the number of shelters.
“People who look like me, or who speak other languages, typically are placed in neighborhoods and areas that are dumped upon,” said Atkins. “This community should not be a dumping ground.”
Bergen House will be the first of 90 shelters as part of Mayor de Blasio’s new approach to remedy the continued increase in homelessness. The plan is to allocate new shelters in accordance to the number of people entering the shelter system by neighborhood.
Aside from concerns about safety and life quality, opponents of the plan stressed, that the affected areas in particular have already more than their fair share of facilities, and their burdens. These communities are likely to be underprivileged, underserved – and less white – than other New York neighborhoods without shelters.
Critics attacked the mayor’s strategy further, as gentrification has been seen as an aggravating factor adding to the homelessness crisis.
And while the residents argued against the imbalance of shelter distribution, they are not against helping the homeless, as Councilmember Robert Cornegy stated: “There’s a misconception that if you fight against a shelter you are against helping homeless people,” Cornegy said. “You cannot defend saturation.”
The councilman also referred to the issue of gentrification versus the consideration of long-time residents and homeowners. “They were here when no one wanted to be here,” he said, to a standing ovation. “And now it’s sexy to be here, and you’re not respecting their property values.”
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