By Maria Rocha-Buschel
A new Safe Haven shelter the city is opening on East 17th Street in a former Beth Israel AIDS hospice is expected to be operational by early April, according to its operator, the Bowery Residents Committee.
Members of Community Board 6’s housing, homeless and human rights committee held a meeting about the shelter on Tuesday night, with BRC CEO Muzzy Rosenblatt providing updates. This was the first meeting on the subject since another one for neighborhood organizations was held last July.
At that time, Rosenblatt predicted that the shelter would be operational by Labor Day of last year after minor repairs but on Tuesday, he said renovations at the building, which is owned by Mount Sinai, were more extensive than anticipated.
“At that point, we hadn’t actually seen the elevator in the building but we were making projections based on previous city dealings with elevators,” he said. “Once we saw the elevator, we realized that it actually needed to be replaced, which takes longer because the elevator has to be site-specific, but that work is now underway and we don’t anticipate any further delays.”
The shelter is part of a pilot program created in 2006 for “service resistant” individuals who are homeless but don’t want to go into the traditional shelter system. The new facility between First and Second Avenues will house 28 people.
On Tuesday, members of the committee at the meeting responded positively to the plan, with a number of attendees asking Rosenblatt the best way to help the incoming Safe Haven residents or potential ones of the new shelter. CB6 vice chair and committee member Claude Winfield wanted to know if BRC would be able to prioritize homeless individuals within the nearby community, and Rosenblatt said the organization could.
“We won’t be able to hold a certain number of beds just for people from the neighborhood but we’ll be able to offer it to them first,” he said. “This community has been especially supportive and we picked this location specifically because there are many individuals in Lower Manhattan who won’t go anywhere else, so we want to be responsive of their needs.”
Carin van der Donk, a Community Board member and East 18th Street resident, was curious about the level of participation that Safe Haven would allow from the community and Rosenblatt noted that BRC has a volunteer program that residents can get involved with. East 15th Street resident Jan Armstrong asked if BRC has specific protocol when referring individuals in the community.
“The referral process can actually start now,” Rosenblatt said. “Candidates for Safe Haven are usually skeptical of help so we can start with a series of conversations to build trust and start a relationship with them.”
ST-PCV Tenants Association president Susan Steinberg asked Rosenblatt at the meeting if BRC could set up an additional meeting once the shelter opens, specifically for residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. In response, Rosenblatt said he couldn’t necessarily accommodate requests from every single community group that would inevitably follow but would be willing to attend any other meetings organized by the Community Board.
“It would work best to organize a community meeting through the community board structure,” he said.