Ozone Park Homeless Drop-In Center Opens, Some Opponents now Support Facility
Just a few months ago residents packed community meetings and protested in the cold against the proposed opening of Queens first drop in homeless shelter.
It was first announced in 2016 that the facility could occupy the building at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and 102nd Street.
Since then, the non-profit Breaking Ground has moved forward with its plan, submitted to the Department of Homeless Services, to open the facility.
“Homelessness didn’t happen overnight. It built up over many years,” explained Steven Banks, the Commissioner for the NYC Human Resources Administration/Department of Social Services.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Banks and Breaking Ground officials gave NY1 an inside look at the facility that now serves about 10 homeless men and women a day.
"We've heard overwhelming positive remarks from our clients who are really excited to have a place in queens," said Amie Pospisi, the Deputy Vice President of Housing Operations and Programs at Breaking Ground.
The plan is to expand slowly and over time the facility will eventually serve up to 75 clients a day and have approximately 50 safe haven beds available.
Right now, clients can't sleep at the facility but they do have a place to eat, use the bathroom, can speak to a psychiatrist 2 days a week and get help applying for aid.
"You know they take you, they put you on the computer, they kind of guide you, they get you a SNAP application," exclaimed Abdul Hasan, a Breaking Ground client.
It's news that was encouraging to those who said they had previously protested the shelter's opening.
"I'm definitely at ease, you know, everyone needs a place to go and I think that's wonderful," said Apryll Abraham, who was initially opposed to shelter.
Some of the concern prior to the facility opening was its potential impact on the local neighborhood, but most of those NY1 spoke with said they hadn’t seen any change.
“I think that it was more misconception they think homeless people are people with substance abuse problems or people with mental health problems,” said Queens resident Jim Sideris.
On the top floor of the facility, Breaking Ground has also been able to streamline their services by providing those who work with the homeless in Queens with an office in the borough
"When we do outreach, because the fact our office is here…we're allotted more time on the road," said Sabina Britton, who works for Breaking Ground as part of their Queens outreach efforts.
It’s just one of many benefits; the Commissioner said will better help address the city’s homeless crisis.