Some children dread the end of the summer, as they know the school year and all the homework that comes with it are just around the corner.
Other children love walking with their friends in the hallways and tackling challenging schoolwork.
Many of the students residing at the newly renamed Boulevard Family Residence, formerly the Pan American Hotel, fall into the latter category.
Dozens of parents and children living in the controversial homeless shelter gathered in the building’s parking lot on Tuesday to receive backpacks and school supplies, donated by the Queens Center mall, from Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights).
Before handing out the items to the many grinning children, the former teacher emphasized the importance of his newest constituents being ready for the academic year.
“I know how important it is for children to be prepared for school,” Dromm said. “So when the Queens Center mall approached me and asked me ‘Who would you like to give these backpacks to?’ I said ‘Let me give them to our newest neighbors ... our newest constituents ... the children who are in this shelter here who really deserve and need a break.’”
About 200 backpacks were distributed, with each bookbag containing vital school supplies such as notebooks and pencils.
One of the children to happily receive the donation was 14-year-old Judah Jones, who is entering her sophomore year at Metropolitan Soundview High School in the Bronx.
“I’m very excited,” Jones said. “The summer’s ending now and I can be back with my peers.”
Her mother, Sheila, a 46-year-old Jamaica native, said the money she is saving on school supplies she would have had to buy for Judah and her other daughter, a middle school student, is being put toward her search for an apartment for her family.
The Joneses have lived at the Elmhurst shelter since mid-June after moving from Georgia in April.
“It’s very important because I’m trying to gather all of my funds to move,” the elder Jones said. “It frees up monies where I don’t have to be so concerned about school supplies instead of an apartment.”
The donation comes at the perfect time for the Jones family, as Sheila said that with the help of Department of Homeless Services officials, she has a few “good leads” in her hunt for an apartment and is aiming to move out of the shelter in due time.
“One of the case workers was diligently searching with me, house hunting and such,” she said. “Here in New York, most owners want first month’s and last month’s rent. So as far as saving all of the pennies that I can save, these school supplies helped out a lot.”
Despite Dromm’s repeated calls for the Elmhurst community to respect the plight of those in the shelter, the Joneses said they have been personally impacted by the perceived stereotyping of homeless people by area residents.
Judah said she was in the McDonald’s across the street from the shelter a few weeks ago when she was scoffed at and insulted by a young girl.
“I was going to sit down on one of the stools and a little girl came up to me and said ‘I don’t want you sitting here. You’re not supposed to be sitting here,’” she said.
Sheila said that’s the result of angry parents deeply involving their young children in the three protests at or near the shelter over the last two months.
At the most jarring rally on June 30, many of the children were holding anti-homeless shelter signs and taking part in chants such as “Shame on you” and “Get a job,” directed at homeless counterprotesters, some of whom said things like “Go back to your country.”
She said if those rallying took to the steps of City Hall to call for more affordable housing, she “would have been there” with them, but the protests and disrespect from the community make their plight even tougher than it has to be.
“To have your children involved in this rallying ... you’re telling your children that those kids in the shelter are less than you. And it’s causing hatred,” she said. “The Statue of Liberty still stands in the [harbor]. Does that mean anything anymore?”