A New Shelter Comes to the Rockaways

Mayor de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide” plan is taking full effect with a new family shelter placed in Rockaway. “Turning the Tide” is a way for de Blasio to find solutions for the homelessness crisis affecting all boroughs. By providing shelters, this will help provide temporary housing so that the residents can find a permanent home to stay. The shelter will be providing 41 families with 1-2 bedroom apartments, including fully installed kitchens to create a sense of normalcy. The shelter will be available to current and prior residents of Rockaway. If there’s a situation where the family feels a sense of danger in the area, there will be transfers available if necessary.

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With the homelessness crisis in the Rockaways, residents are skeptical about the shelter when other solutions (such as using hotels as shelters) have not worked. To address the skepticisms, a public meeting was held at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital this Tuesday. Jackie Bray, First Deputy of the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), understood that the resident's apprehension was something to address, especially before the shelter makes it debut in mid-September. “Yes, we understand that this is first a housing issue before a homelessness issue,” said Bray

The apprehension from the community stem from the problems which occurred in previous shelters. These concerns include:

  1. Sex offenders housed in the shelter being close to the school.

  2. The transition for students enrolled in different boroughs but housed in this shelter.

  3. 18-year-olds aging out the system.

Low level (level 1) sex offenders are allowed temporary housing. This still made residents uneasy, but Bray continued to stress that she has to follow the law. The panel explains, as, for children who go to a school in a different borough, they will have the option to transfer at any time during the school year. According to Bray, “aging out the system” if someone turns 18 at their time in the shelter and still need help with housing they are given the option to transfer to adult housing. A way the 18-year-old can stay in the shelter is if the family still have minors that need housing. With these concerns from residents, the panel wants to be positive and focus on their goals.

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The goal of this shelter is to provide a step into permanent housing with the tools to remain out of shelters. “We want to maintain and regain stability for the homeless residents of Far Rockaway,” said Bray. Responsible for help with that goal is Karen Ford, the DHS Deputy Commissioner and Requelma Moreno, Home/Life Regional Director. Ford’s goal is to make sure every person who comes into shelters is given a “biopsychosocial” evaluation, in order to be connected to the proper social and caseworker. Moreno helps with finding job opportunities for residents and implementing activities for mental health, such as yoga and tai-chi.

Bray plans to have more public meetings and has committed to creating a community advisory board for residents to join. Bray, Ford, and Moreno made sure they want the community to be as involved as possible to continue the communication through the process of this shelter.