The prospect of a homeless shelter moving into the shadow of multi-million-dollar condo towers on Billionaires’ Row has sparked a neighborhood backlash and a lawsuit. Less than a dozen blocks away in Hell’s Kitchen, that sort of Not In My Back Yard reaction is conspicuously absent as a 120-bed shelter for homeless women prepares to open this summer at 427 West 52nd Street, The City reports.
“We’re just a more open community,” says Maria Ortiz, a licensed social worker and lifelong Hell’s Kitchen resident. The homeless facility will be run by Care for the Homeless and will cater to women in need of mental health services, with an on-site clinic and case managers. It’s located on a mostly residential block, sandwiched between an apartment building and an elementary school. It previously served as a shelter for young mothers and their children, privately run by Covenant House for three decades until last year.
George Nashak, executive director of the nonprofit Care for the Homeless, says he’s been talking with locals about the West 52nd Street shelter plan since December. He praised areas leaders for being “remarkably generous and welcoming.” He adds, “They absolutely raised legitimate questions. They had wonderful, thoughtful questions. But this is not a community that has reacted in the way other communities have.”
When it opens this summer, the West 52nd Street location will be one of 90 new shelters the de Blasio administration has set out to open as part of a five-year overhaul of the city’s shelter system. Another is the former Park Savoy Hotel on West 58th Street, which has ignited the neighborhood backlash on Billionaires’ Row. The city is covering Care for the Homeless’ $6.5 million operating budget at the location.
“We feel like part of our role as an organization serving homeless people is to demystify homelessness and demystify the shelter process,” Nashak says. “We wanted to throw our doors open and let people come in and see – there’s no mysteries happening in here.”
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