The city must focus its homeless outreach efforts in Bay Ridge, according to locals who are reporting more vagrants in neighborhood parks and on commercial thoroughfares.
The down-on-their-luck flock to Bay Ridge because it is one of the borough’s safer nabes, but some itinerants are harassing Ridgites, who fear their quiet corner of Brooklyn could become more dangerous without intervention, according to one.
“It can be a little scary navigating all the homeless men that show up here early in the morning,” said Marilyn Saunders, who walks along Fourth Avenue to reach the 86th Street R station for work every day. “Sometimes I worry, ‘Is this gonna be the day something happens?’ I have nothing against them — just maybe a shelter would be a better place for them to hang out.”
More locals are calling 311 about homeless, according to Community Board 10 district manager Josephine Beckmann, Twenty-four people called 311 to report someone living on the street in 2014. Last year, when residents reported a rise in area destitute, 311 received 35 calls. This year, the city has fielded 133 calls, and it’s only September, she said.
“There is a more visible presence of street bedding and encampments that we have not seen in a very long time,” Beckmann said. “I think many people come to Bay Ridge because they feel safe here, you tend to see them near the train.”
Being homeless is not illegal, and concerned citizens can call 311 to report homeless encampments or people that outreach organizations can offer help to. The city encourages people to call 911 in some situations — including if a homeless person is a danger to himself or others, ill outside during a cold-weather emergency, or blocking a cash machine, according to 311’s online complaint system.
But subways are safer than the shelter system, according to one homeless man who has spent the last two weeks living around 86th Street and Fourth Avenue.
“The shelters are awful, I’d rather sleep out here on the street,” said Eric, who declined to give his full name because he’s concerned it would scare away potential employers. “I took the train from East New York. I take the train a lot. But I like it here — I feel pretty safe here.”
City officials did not respond to questions about how they will deal with the issue in Bay Ridge specifically, but said that they are hard at work to bring the hard-up off the streets across the city.
“Department of Homeless Services outreach providers, including Breaking Ground, canvass 24-7 to identify and engage individuals who present as homeless,” an agency spokeswoman said.