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Homeless shelters could overwhelm Wakefield

The chairman of Community Board 12 is fighting an onslaught of social service providers seeking locations near the city line in Wakefield for the opening of homeless shelters.

Father Richard Gorman said CB 12 has been flooded by letters and telephone calls from four different homeless service providers over the past six months. He is now calling on elected officials, including Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Councilman Larry Seabrook, to help make sure that the community does not become oversaturated with homeless housing.

Gorman said that he believes the community has an obligation to help the homeless, but that if all four facilities were to open, there would be upwards of 500 people living in shelters that are no more than a five-minute drive from one another. Two of the proposed locations are actually across the street from each other. Another is across the street from a church and elementary school.

“The question is whether one community can absorb so many people in such a short time,” Gorman said. “My feeling is that we would definitely not look to see anything across the street from a church and elementary school, and the board will actively oppose two facilities across the street from one another.”

One of the facilities is a done deal, Gorman said. A 64-unit facility to be constructed at 4339 White Plains Road and operated by Praxis Housing Initiatives is slated to be built as an as-of-right project. The facility will be located on a former parking lot for a funeral home.

“In this case there was some community opposition because it was originally supposed to be housing for seniors, and then we found out that is was for homeless people with H.I.V. and A.I.D.S.,” Gorman stated.

“Praxis did reach out to the community, but it was an as-of-right project.”

Gorman said that in February, the board was contacted by Project Renewal, which was interested in rehabilitating a former auto dealership at 4380 Bronx Boulevard, across the street from the recently vacated Muller Army Reserve Center at 555 E. 238 Street. Project Renewal wants to create 100 units of transitional homeless housing at the site.

On Thursday, June 17, the community board was contacted by The DOE Fund, which wants to use the Muller Center to house 200 homeless veterans.

Another shelter proposed by M&M Dames would house 100 abused woman and children at 3988 Bronxwood Avenue, across the street from Our Lady of Grace church and elementary school. Gorman thinks it is a mistake having women escaping from abusive relationships living across the street from a school with hundreds of young children because abusers sometimes follow their victims.

“Bronxwood Avenue is a bad place to put a shelter because it is a residential area, mainly with private homes,” Gorman said.

“It is also a very difficult population in terms of safety and security. There cannot be any mistakes when you are across the street from a school.”

Reach reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 742-3393 or procchio@cnglocal.com.

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