With an anticipated opening in late 2021, the facility, located at 243-02 Northern Boulevard, is expected to house 75 single women who are 50 years or older. The shelter will be run by the nonprofit provider Samaritan Village.
Erin Drinkwater, deputy commissioner for intergovernmental and legislative affairs for DSS, wrote in a December 22nd letter to local officials that the Samaritan Village will provide social services to help clients “regain their footing with dignity.”
“This facility will provide 75 single adult women experiencing homelessness with safety, security, services and support in their time of need,” she wrote, “with priority at this location offered to individuals from Queens.”
The agency plans to create a Community Advisory Board for the site to “facilitate open dialogue and address concerns.” Drinkwater encouraged local elected officials to recommend community members to join the group.
“Our goal is to guarantee that our facilities are seamlessly integrated into each community,” she wrote, “so that our shelters are good neighbors and our clients receive a warm welcome.”
The Douglaston facility is the latest shelter to open as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Turning the Tide on Homelessness” plan, which seeks to end the use of all cluster sites and commercial hotels to house the homeless.
Instead, the city is opening 90 homeless shelters and renovating and expanding 30 existing shelter sites. City officials expect the policy to reduce the number of city shelter facilites by 45 percent across the five boroughs.
In a joint statement, State Senator John Liu, Assemblyman Edward Braunstein and Councilman Paul Vallone said they voiced their collective concerns to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) about the shelter, which resulted in the agency revising their plan to make it a facility exclusively for older, single women.
“While we believe this is a better outcome for the community at large, we are still disappointed to see DHS adopt policies where key decisions are made without ever engaging local stakeholders and community members,” they said. “In the coming months, an open dialogue and our continued coordination will ensure that DHS listens and properly responds to any and all of the community’s needs and concerns during all stages of the process.”
Richard Lee, a City Council candidate for the district, released a statement opposing the shelter, arguing the location is isolated and provides no support infrastructure.
“There are no social service providers in the area,” he said, “and northeast Queens being a transit desert, public transportation options in the area are almost nonexistent.”
Lee also took umbrage with the agency making decisions without engaging the community. He said he is against “warehousing” the homeless.
“The city could use those millions of dollars to instead provide direct rental vouchers so that these individuals could have decent and dignified housing,” he said. “This is especially true now, when the city is experiencing record high vacancy rates in the rental market.”