Shelter Update: The Men Move In


 A contract hasn’t been signed, but the homeless are moving in.

On Friday, February 21, those behind Rockaway Solutions Not Shelters (RSNS), let the community know that the Department of Buildings had granted a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (CofO) for the 226 Beach 101st Shelter, which would allow homeless men to start moving in to the facility. In the early morning hours of February 22, it was all but confirmed when neighbors spotted a school bus unloading about eight men who entered the building at around 2 a.m.

In a statement to The Rockaway Times, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) confirmed the opening saying, “Last week, we proudly opened our doors at 226 Beach 101st Street, the first and only transitional housing facility serving single adults in the Far Rockaway community, which is now providing high-quality shelter to individuals experiencing homelessness as they work hard to restabilize their lives. We look forward to welcoming and supporting more neighbors in need at this location over the next few weeks. Working together with service provider, Black Vets for Social Justice, and the community, through collaborative support and compassion, we’re confident that we will make this the best experience it can be for these individuals as they get back on their feet.”

However, before the opening, the contract for the shelter hadn’t even crossed Comptroller Scott Stringer’s desk yet. The move comes just a few days after a similar event at a new shelter in Glendale, in which residents were also brought to the shelter overnight, despite no contract being signed and no CofO.

“It started operating without Scott Stringer registering the contract, meaning getting funding from taxpayer dollars. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did the same thing in Rockaway. They are bypassing the formal process of getting a contract registered and instead are either choosing to be self-funded, or according to rumors from Glendale, they’re not paying staff, but will pay them retroactively once a contract is signed,” Torey Schnupp, a lead activist behind RSNS explained. A temporary CofO will allow the vendor to move up to 50 of the 108 residents in, at a rate of 10 per month.

Schnupp added that Stringer received the contract for the Rockaway shelter on Monday, February 24. She explained that the shelter is not guaranteed funding without a thorough review of the financial information for the nonprofit service provider, Black Veterans for Social Justice. RSNS has provided information from its own thorough review to Stringer’s office in the hopes that it will help them identify financial discrepancies. Stringer’s office has 30 days to respond to the contract by either signing it, or not signing it, which would automatically approve the contract, or by requesting additional information on the contract, something that the mayor has the power to override.

According to Schnupp, Stringer’s office is not pleased with the way the situation has been handled in Glendale and Rockaway. “Stringer’s office is not happy this is happening. They were surprised that it’s happening twice in a row now, considering DHS is trying to rush this through,” Schnupp said.

Local elected officials are surprised by the move and are still being kept in the dark about details. “There’s no contract. Who is answering to them? Who is responsible for them? Where is their food coming from? DHS doesn’t have an answer for that,” Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato said. “It’s insanity how we’ve come to treat people. We can say that the community feels that this is not a good match, but when they’re bussing people in, in the middle of the night, it’s just a slap in the face to the whole the community. I don’t think anybody is happy about that. There’s no human element to that. They’re not vetting who’s not well. They’re so desperate to get people off the street. It’s just a Band-Aid to the problem.”

Pheffer Amato said she has requested a meeting with DHS to try to get more answers, but has been unable to do so yet. “I don’t understand the logistics of it, and I feel as a rep, I have a right to know,” she said.

RSNS’ lawsuit is still ongoing, and so is the effort to help RSNS stay on top of legal fees. On Saturday, March 21, RSNS will be holding a fundraiser at the Knights of Columbus to continue the fight. For $30, starting at 7:30 p.m., guests can enjoy live music by Solshyne and Bobby Butler and Friends, a 50/50 and a silent auction with plenty of chances to win prizes. There will also be a cash bar. Tickets will be available at the door.

“We need to keep the faith and keep the support going because this is not a done deal. I feel strongly that if we don’t push back against what the City does, then we might as well let them have their way and do whatever they want,” Schnupp said.

By Katie McFadden