Tensions High At Queens Homeless Shelter Hearing

Steve Burns
October 09, 2019 - 12:08 pm

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- There has been a lot of sympathy and support for the homeless population in wake of the Chinatown murders over the weekend, but a meeting about a proposed homeless shelter in Queens is showing that support has its limits. 

City officials looking to answer questions about a proposed 200-bed men’s shelter in Middle Village were greeted with obscenities at a hearing Monday at Christ the King High School

Anyone who supported the proposed homeless shelter was booed off the microphone, while anyone against the shelter was cheered.

"We're here to tell you that we will not accept this facility in our community," one man said.

"I hope somebody is going to burn the place down!" one woman declared.

"They should be locked away forever and out of sight," another woman yelled.

Jacquelyn Simone, at the Coalition for the Homeless, says there's been an outpouring of support after the murders of four homeless men in Chinatown, but the city still clearly faces challenges in finding solutions.

"People need to remember that homelessness is an experience. It is not an identity," said Simone. "You really need to think about how have we as residents of New York failed those people instead of placing all of the blame on those individuals for their situation."

She and other homeless advocates say fears about safety and property values around homeless shelters almost never come to pass. 

"Shelters generally have a very negligible if any impact on a community," George Nashak, with Care for the Homeless, said, adding that homeless people are far more likely to be victims of crime than to be the victimizers.

Simone said it's a challenge to find the space and understanding neighbors to allow for things like shelters and affordable housing.