Bay Ridge stepping up efforts to help homeless
The problem of homelessness in New York City hit home for the Community Board 10 district manager in December, when she learned that a mother and child were sleeping in a bank ATM vestibule on Fifth Avenue across the street from the board’s Bay Ridge office.
“This year, the number of homeless calls to our office has increased from past years. In fact, this week we sadly heard of a mother and child sleeping in the bank in the ATM area right across the street from our district office,” Beckmann told the community board at a recent meeting.
Members of the community board’s Senior Issues, Housing Health and Welfare Committee will meet within the next few weeks with a homeless outreach liaison from the de Blasio administration to help “get word out” about services available to the local homeless population, Beckmann said.
At the meeting, which took place last month, Beckmann reminded board members that the city’s annual count of the homeless will take place on Monday, Jan. 25.
Operating under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Homeless Services, the count, officially called the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate, or HOPE, involves thousands of volunteers who literally fan out across the city and count the number of homeless people.
“It is a unique opportunity to volunteer and participate in an extraordinary citywide effort,” Beckmann said. “Homeless Services needs approximately 3,000 volunteers to help survey the number of homeless individuals living on city streets, parks and in other public spaces in New York City.”
The results of the 2015 survey found that 3,182 individuals were living unsheltered throughout the city, according to the Dept. of Homeless Services website.
The de Blasio administration included $7 million in its Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2016 to address the homeless situation, and plans to increase it to $9 million for Fiscal Year 2017 and to $19 million for the following year, according to officials.
While the numbers of homeless people in Bay Ridge are low compared to the rest of the city, the numbers are on the rise, Beckmann said.
The number of calls coming in to the city’s 311 system from local residents complaining about seeing homeless people in parks and on sidewalks increased between 2014 and 2015, Beckmann said.
“Homeless complaints are up. In 2014, there were 24 calls to 311. In 2015, there have been 36 calls,” she said.
The calls coming into the community board’s office are not complaints, Beckmann said. “People are concerned and they want help for the homeless,” she told the Brooklyn Eagle.
The homeless tend to gravitate to local parks, Beckman said, adding that they have been spotted sleeping on benches in Steadman Square on Third Avenue and 67th Street, in Leif Erickson Park on 67th Street between Third and Fourth avenues, in Fort Hamilton Memorial Park on Fifth Avenue and 94th Street and in Tom McDonald Triangle on Sixth Avenue and 83rd Street.
In another development in the city’s homeless problem, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on Jan. 3 mandating that homeless individuals be removed from the streets and placed in homeless shelters when temperatures fall to 32 degrees or below.
Cuomo’s order, which goes into effect Jan. 5, also requires homeless shelters to extend their hours of operation so that those who are homeless can remain indoors.
“I think it is a fact that homelessness is on the increase in New York City. I think everybody recognizes that and I think everybody recognizes that that is a significant problem,” Cuomo told NY1 in an interview.
For information on how to volunteer for HOPE, call 311.
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