Man refuses help, remains on street 1

A man has declined help from the community, preferring to sleep outside on a cold Glendale street.

A homeless man underneath the train tracks at Myrtle Avenue and Fresh Pond Road in Glendale, only a block from the Community Board 5 office, has been refusing help for weeks, area leaders say.

Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District Executive Director Ted Renz called his presence there “an ongoing issue.”

Community members say the man, Pawel, has refused help.

The Rev. Mike Lopez of All Saints Church said the city has done some cleanups of the man’s belongings but that area residents continue to bring him food, money, coats and blankets.

“I think it comes out of a good place from people who don’t want to see him get hurt,” Lopez told the Chronicle Tuesday. “He’s a rather charming gentleman if you’ve ever had the opportunity to deal with him.”

But the residents might be hurting more than helping.

“Our hope is to bring them indoors. As long as they’re being supported with their needs it makes it much harder to bring them off the street,” Lopez said of homeless people, though he acknowledged telling residents not to help “is almost impossible.”

Lopez has known the man for five years. Lopez said Pawel, who is in his mid-40s, was a working member of the community, a carpenter by trade, who became homeless three years ago.

Lopez said Pawel has family but declined to discuss that any further.

“He knows his rights,” Lopez said. “He knows he can’t be forced away.”

Accepting outreach efforts is voluntary. In accordance with the state Mental Hygiene Law, street homeless New Yorkers cannot be involuntarily removed from the streets unless they pose a danger to themselves or others.

A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Homeless Services said nonprofit service provider Breaking Ground canvasses the area more than 20 times a week and actively engages 24 verified homeless individuals encountered on the streets in an effort to offer them services and get them indoors.

“As the weather gets colder, our outreach teams continue to be out across the five boroughs, implementing best practices, latest health guidance and Code Blue protocols whenever appropriate, as they engage unsheltered New Yorkers and encourage them to accept services,” DHS said.

Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle Village) told the Chronicle he visited Pawel with his chief of staff, Daniel Kurzyna. Holden said he stayed back as Kurzyna, who speaks Polish, approached him.

“We don’t want to gang up on him,” Holden said. “Dan said he looked white as a sheet.”

The lawmaker wants to see the city invoke Kendra’s Law, which allows courts to order certain individuals with serious mental illness to stay in treatment for up to a year.

“I didn’t examine him but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if this man would rather live under the trestle than be in a warm room then he can’t make rational decisions,” Holden said, adding, “Obviously it’s the wrong decision to pick being outside in 20 degree weather.”

But Lopez said Pawel has had bad experiences in shelters.

“They feel that it’s safer to be on the street and they wanted to be connected locally to their communities and I think that’s one of the reasons he stays,” Lopez said.

The reverend believes the city needs to improve its shelter system.

“Can you imagine choosing to live on the streets of New York City in January over a shelter because it’s unsafe?” Lopez said.

CB 5 Chairman Vinny Arcuri said Pawel told him “he’s just waiting to die.”

Board member Peggy O’Kane asked, “Are we going to let them lie there and freeze to death?”

But Arcuri said the Department of Homeless Services is not allowed to remove the men if they refuse help.

“Homeless Services, and I apologize for my language, sucks,” he said. “They have no idea what to do with people. This mayor is a total disgrace that allows people to live on the streets, endangering themselves, endangering the rest of us.”

Lopez said what is needed is a look at medical and mental health and what problems those have presented.

“The approach of looking at him, ‘Oh, he’s disgusting sleeping on the sidewalk’ is not the right approach,” he said.

(3) comments


“Homeless Services, and I apologize for my language, sucks,” he said. “They have no idea what to do with people. This mayor is a total disgrace that allows people to live on the streets, endangering themselves, endangering the rest of us.”

So how about offering people a job?? Help them get back on their own feet? If they refuse that, then it's an issue and they should be removed for everyone's safety. This man had a job - get him a job! Just a thought.

stan chaz

Yes Buster57, a job, a meaningful job witht a living wage is something many of us yearn for. But I hope you would also agree that it takes a lot of preparation, of dedicated assistance, of clothing and safe & adequate shelter to first happen before job hunting (in a recessions) is even possible. With so many hotel room lyng vacant in the Covid plague, why not put them to use as a first step to help people recover and come back into society?

As for your (final?) solution of on “removing” those who won’t or can’t comply, well that sounds more Scrooge-like than Christ-like:

"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.

"And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"

"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" said Scrooge.

I help to support the establishments I have mentioned--they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there."

"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."

"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.

"It's not my business," Scrooge returned. "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

We need to say goodbye to the soul-killing spirit of Scrooge and instead put ourselves in the shoes of those who have lost their way, if only for a moment, for there but for fortune go you or I.....

stan chaz

The homeless among us are not disposable trash to be removed or discarded at our whim - to get them out of sight and out of mind. There but for fortune go you or I my friends, most especially in a pandemic, when so many are on the verge of eviction. The homeless are not some kind of alien half-human monsters. They are suffering people who have lost their way in this difficult life, people who desperately need our help, not our condemnation, dismissal, ridicule or fear. For if YOU were in their tattered shoes, if YOU lived their shattered lives, if YOU were at the end of your rope and had nowhere to go, then YOU would hope and plead for compassion and understanding; You would pray that when you stumbled, that when you fell, people would be there to lift YOU up - instead of kicking you further and further down into the abyss. Love thy neighbor? Yes —especially if they are poor, hungry or homeless. Yes, ---even if they are not your family, or your next-door neighbor. For that love & empathy & respect is the true meaning of community, compassion and Christianity. But you don’t need to be Christian, or even religious, to understand the meaning & rge crucial social importance of the ancient teaching that tells us: “whatever you did for the least of these you did for me”. Let us care for one another as a compassionate community, rather than the laws of the cruel jungle.

DeBlasio & Cuomo need to provide safe & sanitary alternatives (for such things as shower & bathroom facilities & masks & gloves for the homeless), instead of forcing them to congregate in large numbers in dangerous cattleicar shelters and risk their lives in this pandemic. In a time of empty pandemic emptied hotal rooms that is an opportunity waiting to be taken, now, this vet Winter. For many decades NYC provided SRO (single room occupancy) housing, only to have it wiped out by gentification & greed. For many more decades before that, New York City provided free municipal bathhouses scattered thru-out the boroughs - for the crowed tenements dwellers of the last century. It’s time to revive those kind if efforts for a new reality - in a city that is becoming more and more unaffordable, with more and more unemployed & homeless ….soon to be joined by many thousands of evicted renters. There but for fortune go you or I. but we can try to change that path of fortune for the better, for everyone.

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