The city blindsided Kensington residents with the announcement that it will open a homeless shelter across the road from an elementary school on McDonald Avenue in a few weeks, say locals who fear the refuge’s residents will put their kids in danger.
Neighbors say they showed up at a meeting on Monday night that they believed would be about the possibility of opening a shelter in the area, only to learn that it was already happening — and just days away.
“I came to this meeting with an open mind, thinking that this shelter was a possibility,” said Bridget Elder. “But I was really quite shocked to find out that it was really a done deal.”
Department of Homeless Services officials told the unsuspecting locals that it will open the 65-unit in a former college dormitory shelter across from PS 230 between Albemarle Road and Church Avenue on Dec. 7.
Reps claimed the shelter would pose no risk to neighbors and students — they will institute a curfew, install security cameras, place metal detector and x-ray machines at the entrance, and employ a rotating team of 18 different security guards to provide on-site security around the clock.
Additionally, the facility will only be open to families with children, and at least 30 percent of the incoming residents hold full-time jobs, they said. Being homeless isn’t synonymous with being dangerous, a spokeswoman told locals.
“I know that it is a very tense situation, but we shouldn’t stereotype,” said Camille Rivera. “No one comes into the shelter because they want to. They come because they have to.”
But neighbors say they don’t trust the department to dedicate the time and money to make sure the security is enforced — especially after it was so deceptive about announcing the shelter in the first place.
“I care for children, but I need a guarantee,” said PS 230 assistant principal Kathleen Drain. “And when it comes from back door and it’s shady, how can I trust anything?”
Local pols claim they only found out about the shelter a few weeks ago and agree the city should have given more notice, but are urging residents to embrace the new refuge — which will provide its residents with social services and three hot meals a day — as a way to help the city’s 60,000 homeless residents, many of whom are children.
“Think about the 24,000 kids who are homeless tonight,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope), who added that his kids went to school across the road from a shelter in Park Slope and it was not a problem.
Lander and the city will hold another meeting to discuss the shelter on Dec. 10 at PS 230. But Rivera said the city is only interested in talking locals around — not reconsidering the shelter.
“We take the concerns of the community very seriously,” she said, “But the point is to alleviate those concerns, address those concerns, and make sure that they’re met and create a space to be able to welcome our families during their time of crisis.”
Community meeting at PS 230 (1 Albermarle Rd. between McDonald Avenue and Dahill Road in Kensington), Dec. 10 at 6:30 pm.