DHS announces shelter in Briarwood 1

The Department of Homeless Services will be transforming the building at 138-50 Queens Blvd. into a high-quality, borough-based shelter facility, which will house 175 homeless single adults beginning sometime in 2022.

A homeless shelter, or what the Department of Homeless Service calls a “high-quality, borough-based shelter facility,” is coming to Briarwood in 2022.

The city agency alerted Community Board 8 to the project on Oct. 26, District Manager Marie Adam-Ovide said at the board’s Nov. 18 meeting. It will be erected at 138-50 Queens Blvd., one mile away from the Briarwood Residence, a family homeless shelter.

According to the Coalition for the Homeless, approximately 57,660 people were staying in a city shelter each night as of August 2020. New York City reached its peak in December 2019, when it was housing an average of nearly 64,000 homeless individuals each night. The new shelter facility would house 175 of those homeless single adults.

In what the DHS calls “the first of its kind” for Queens Community District 8, the new facility will offer a variety of social services to help the residents get back on their feet. Individuals from Queens will receive priority placement in the Briarwood facility, so they can be closer to their support networks, houses of worship, schools, jobs, healthcare, family and communities.

“Homeless New Yorkers come from every community across the five boroughs, and now more than ever, we need every community to come together to address homelessness in this crisis,” a DHS spokesperson told the Chronicle in a Nov. 20 email. “As we implement our borough-based approach, we are ending the use of inefficient stop gap facilities citywide while opening the high-quality facilities New Yorkers in need deserve as they restabilize their lives.”

Under the Turning the Tide on Homelessness initiative, the agency hopes to transform the shelter system to end “haphazard bandaid practices,” such as using commercial hotels as housing. The Briarwood facility will be one of the 76 locations involved in the Turning the Tide program, 41 of which have already been installed.

Westhab, a housing and social services provider, will supply resources such as case management, housing placement assistance, health and mental health services, independent living and life skills workshops and employment counseling on site. Off-site, Westhab will connect the shelter residents with primary healthcare, substance abuse treatment, vocational training, employment placement, GED instruction, conflict mediation and legal services.

For community members wary of their incoming guests, Westhab will provide 24/7 on-site security, enforce a 10 p.m. curfew, install 75 security cameras and set up a 24-hour open line so that the community can provide feedback.

Additionally, the DHS promises to establish a community advisory board with local stakeholders that will hold regular meetings and maintain direct lines of communication between staff, including on-site security, and communities to ensure any community concerns are proactively addressed as they arise.

“We’re confident that these New Yorkers will be warmly welcomed — and through collaborative support and compassion, we will make this the best experience it can be for all,” the spokesperson said.

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