Statement Of NYS Senator Duane Before The NYS Assembly Committee On Social Services Regarding The Nyc Department Of Homeless Services Plan To Relocate Its Men's Homeless Intake Center

Thomas K. Duane

September 19, 2008

As the New York State Senator for the 29th District, in which New York City's Bellevue intake center for homeless men is located, I urge the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to reconsider its plan to move this intake center from 30th Street and First Avenue in Manhattan to the Bedford-Atlantic Armory in Brooklyn.

I firmly believe that it would be in the best interests of both my constituents who have permanent housing in the vicinity of the facility as well as of the City's homeless population for DHS to absolutely improve but certainly not to uproot the existing homeless men's intake center.

As the Coalition for the Homeless and other experts have explained, and as DHS's own 2008 HOPE survey statistics confirm, Manhattan has the highest concentration of street homelessness among the five boroughs. The majority of these street homeless are single men who congregate in the midtown business district. In calling today's hearing, the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Social Services and its chair, Assemblymember Wright, cited research underscoring the importance of accessibility for street homeless in search of shelter, particularly in extremely cold weather, when the need is most critical. Given this fact, it simply makes no sense to the move the center that functions as the "front door" to the shelter system for homeless single men from the "backyard" in which they gather to a facility many miles away in a borough which has only 16% of the City's street homeless. The intake center may move, but experience suggests the homeless themselves will not. They will remain on the streets of midtown Manhattan with no convenient entryway to the shelter system.

It is disturbing that prior to making this decision to move this homeless intake center, it appears that the Mayor and DHS consulted with neither leading advocacy organizations like the Coalition for the Homeless nor any of the elected officials or community boards covering the areas that will be impacted. The City has also apparently not yet provided a formal proposal to relocate the intake shelter to the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), which has oversight authority over such decisions. State regulation states that the shelter operator must present a plan to OTDA at least 120 days prior to closure, and that "The operator shall take no action to close the facility prior to department approval of the plan for closure." While the City has not met this burden, it has issued a Request for Proposals that indicates that new plans are in the works for the current shelter building, which do not include a shelter.

Given DHS's lack of consultation, today's public hearing on this proposal is all the more significant. I applaud New York State Assemblymember Wright and the Assembly Social Services Committee for seeking informed testimony on the likely impacts of this move. I urge OTDA to factor today's testimony into its evaluation of any formal proposal submitted by DHS, and as I stated above, I strongly encourage DHS to reconsider its plan to move forward with this relocation.