Yonkers Day Program for Homeless Closes Due to Building Code Violations (and What it Means for New Rochelle)

Written By: Deprecated User

Though I have respect for the paper, and the author, I was misquoted in the Guardian article about this. I believe that there clearly was a problem and the citation was merited. The quote taken from a off-the record conversation suggests I don’t believe so, I think this article says otherwise. I did state my opinion that the actions of the city, while right might not have been done for the right reasons, as many city across the country are trying to cut down on homeless visibility including New Rochelle, and people have to my knowledge reported the facility in prior years with no results.

But the citation did need to be given.I believe that they were justified and if anything it falls under the category of better late then never. In the article the city (of Yonkers) states that they feel that the basement should be closed while it is repaired. I agree. The problem is that no repairs have started, and form we have been told none will. In addition the lobby is open from 4-9 not 2-9 as the article states.

http://www.westchesterguardian.com/

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The main upside of the drop-in and HOST day program at Yonkers was that clients are only outside for 5 hours, good for the county, and better than Oasis unless you want to stay inside all day. A wholesome (if small) lunch is served to daily in the cafeteria. Clients could come and go as they please as long as they sign in at two for the night’s bed, and they can shower which is vital. At Broadway manor the woman’s site the staff are courteous and kind. I have been staying there of and on since Oasis banned me for reasons you are probably familiar with if familiar with my articles, and on the whole it is a little better. But there are problems, and they are severe.

Two weeks ago the mens drop-in, Holy Cross was closed for undisclosed reasons Ever since the men have been sleeping on cardboard boxes in the basement of the day program, or draped not eh stair cases of the same building. There are cots but they run out quickly. They can’t be sent to another drop-in, given overcrowding, but they probably could be sent to residential shelters such as VOA. And according to Commissioner Mcguires comments at the recent homeless conference in New Rochelle there are open sports. Those in Yonkers sleeping on the floor are certainly not being sent to fill them.

At night while the men stay in the basement, the woman and a few older male clients are taken to Broadway Manor. The van is a relic of years past, and squeezing through the tightly spaced seats is always an adventure. One person (the smallest) usually stands hunched and scrunched at the side during the trip.

In the morning we are woken at five and taken to the lobby of the day program, at six we wait outside for it to open. On Weekends winter and summer this can be as much as an hour. Inside the basement chairs are first come first serve as is space in the small room by the television. The worker usually is quiet, sleep is the main pastime. There isn’t much casework. Those who arrive last make do with hallway space for their chairs, or seats upon the stair case. We take turns in the shower, smalls bar of soap and paper body towel in hand, only one at a time, and goodness help you if someone of the opposite gender is washing when you need to use the bathroom. I have never seen anyone denied DSS letters, but I have not seen a drop-in client gotten housing with the aid of the facility either, though several long term clients have been told to leave. With a new housing counsleor, the old one having gone over to Hope in New Rochelle this looks like this may change but time will tell.

When I arrived Thursday night to the Sharing Community in Yonkers my fellow clients were in a panic. We were told by staff that the Host Program, the day program that serves abut 50 people would be closed until further notice. While the lobby of the day program has been opened to us this means that there are no access to showers and no where to go from 8-9 and 2-4, hours previously the day program eased. The city of Yonkers would not answer my calls and the buildings department told me I would need a FOIL request. Always impossible to reach by phone or email, the Yonkers shelter staff including Director Nadine Burns Lyons, were inaccessible as well. But a bit of digging from some pretty reliable sources relieved the cause. Apparently the shelter had not had permission for people to sleep in the basement, only an expired permit 14 years old. In addition the lack of fire sprinklers inside the crowded area definitely wasn’t helping.

An email to a top DSS official yielded the following response “The HOST Program at the Sharing Community is NOT closed. It has been temporarily relocated to the first floor at 1 Hudson Street.” The lobby is smaller than the basement, and as I said the hours have been cut back. A viable alternative seems to be having the program in the cafeteria, though the question of where people will shower remains. With above 60 people who use it and a van that fits approximately 12 people, and as one client put it with other shelters being “too crowded” it would have to be in town.

It is possible that this was partly motivated by a desire to see the homeless out of the downtown, and if so it is not helping. But the violations were genuine, and I believe unfortunaltey deserved. What needs to happen now is for another Yonkers space to be found, or the basement to be promptly fixed, and for DSS to seriously consider taking action on clear violations of it’s contract.

The final question for my New Rochelle readers is how does this effect our city? I doubt even with the lack of showers that many current clients will voluntarily go to Oasis, it has a reputation. It never makes sense to me when people think that the homeless come here for the drop-in. They come here because they have no choice, I have met people in the city who have heard about Oasis’s bedbugs, even long before started writing about them. But DSS is probably going to be loath perhaps rightly to send more people to a facility with no beds for males. They should be sent to resdinetial shelters. But they are probably going to be referred our way instead.