Williamsburg homeless shelter refuses to take sex offenders

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

A Williamsburg homeless shelter is refusing to accept dozens of sex offenders the city is trying to pawn off on it, and says it is putting any that show up at its door into a van and driving them right back to the Manhattan shelter from whence they came.

The Peter Jay Sharp Center for Opportunity is suing the city to stop it from sending up to 50 homeless sex offenders the shelter says it has neither the beds nor expertise to accommodate. A judge on Wednesday rejected the facility’s request for a temporary restraining order to keep them out, but the center says it will continue to send any of the new arrivals packing in order to keep its staff safe and prevent its current residents from being pushed out.

“If that means fighting the city all the way to the wall, that is what we are going to do,” said Alexander Horwitz, director of external affairs for the Doe Fund, which operates the 400-bed shelter on Porter Avenue between Johnson Avenue and Ingraham Street.

The Department of Homeless Services is already trying to send the shelter at least 34 men who have been convicted of sex crimes, and told the center it wants to send more in the coming months. The shelter claims the city is forcing it to become “an outer-borough warehouse for sex offenders,” when it is supposed to be a “back-to-work program” providing temporary housing for men trying to turn their lives around, according to Courthouse News Service.

The Doe Fund employs the shelter’s residents in its “Ready, Willing, and Able” street-cleaning teams and puts them through educational programs. But the 400-bed center would have to kick out one man for each sex offender who moves in, interrupting their employment and training and shunting them off to other shelters around the city, Horwitz said.

“These guys are right in the middle of their programs here and we are doing good work with them,” said Horwitz.

Many of the sex offenders the city is trying to relocate have been living in a shelter in the Kips Bay neighborhood of Manhattan for years, but the city recently decided they were too close to a nearby school. The Porter Avenue shelter makes a convenient alternative because it is one of the few facilities in the city that meets the legal requirement of being more than 1,000 feet from any school, said Horwitz.

The men do need an appropriate place to stay, he said, but the facility is not set up to treat sex offenders, and its staff does not have the training to support them.

“These people need services, but we have no expertise in that area,” said Horwitz. “That is not who we serve.”

The shelter says it has already turned away a handful of sex offenders the city has sent its way. In doing so, it is breaking its contract with the Department of Homeless Services, which could respond by cutting the $7.5 million in annual funding it gives the shelter, which has a total yearly budget of $15.2 million. But Horwitz said that would be a very shortsighted move, as it would just put more New Yorkers out on the street.

“If they cut the funding, they are going to be increasing the number of homeless people in this city,” said Horwitz.

This is not the first time the city’s attempts to relocate the Kips Bay sex offenders have raised hackles in Brooklyn. Residents in Greenpoint were outraged when news reports in April claimed the city had moved some of the men to a shelter on Clay Street.

One local pol say the city needs to do a better job finding appropriate facilities for homeless men with sex crime convictions and keeping the community in the loop about where they’re living.

“People are fearful — they know that sex offenders in the shelter system are not getting the oversight that is warranted,” said Assemblyman Joe Lentol (D–Williamsbu­rg). “We need to have transparent policies in place so people aren’t left in the dark wondering whether sex offenders are being placed in their neighborho­ods.”

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Matt from Greenpoint says:
The for profit prison racketeers are always looking for business, send them there.
June 22, 2015, 10:12 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
Tough issue, but I do not think pushing homeless men out of a shelter is the reasonable approach to shelter and accommodate men who, by their behavior and criminal convictions, are designated sex offenders preventing themselves from being near schools. The city needs to come up with a better solution for homeless sex offenders than making homeless men shelterless.
June 22, 2015, 1:59 pm
Elle from East Village says:
Honestly, convicted serial sex offenders should not be housed in the middle of such densely populated neighborhoods or cities. These level 3 convicted sex offenders should be in jail, serving reasonably long sentences, away from communities.

This is literally the original purpose of prison - to house all the dangerous criminals who are a legitimate threat to the general population. Maybe if our legal system took sexual abuse crimes as seriously as it should, and gave sex offenders longer prison sentences instead of "saving" those for less violent criminals, we wouldn't have this problem at all.
June 22, 2015, 3:22 pm
Johnny Goombatz from Brooklyn Heights says:
and the reason we let convicted sex offenders back into society is?
June 22, 2015, 6:42 pm
Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
I wish I knew The answer to that Johnny. There is only one thing that will cure a sex offender of their 'disease' and it comes out the end of a smoking barrel.
June 22, 2015, 7:07 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Good! Keep Tal Barzilai out of Williamsburg!
June 23, 2015, 8:30 am
Lentol Vagine from Feminist says:
All men are sex offenders. To say anything else is misogyny and womenist. Put them all in another neighborhood.
June 23, 2015, 4:42 pm
Ian from Williamsburg says:
Lucrative contracts from the city and better political representation in Manhattan. Brooklyn welcomes Manhattan's garbage because we have poor political representation.
June 23, 2015, 9:44 pm says:
The "registry" is a poorly thought out idea. Only 6% re-offend, ever. They would have been better to spend the money on proactive counseling and employment assistance. With as many teachers that have been arrested recently for "sex related" crimes, it might have been more effective to keep kids 2000 feet from schools; home schooling would solve many problems and save a ton of money.
June 24, 2015, 7:52 am
Jen says:
Very wrong, Sharon. They are re-convicted at a rate of 6%. Only 7% of rape cases ever lead to an arrest.
June 25, 2015, 7:48 am

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: