East Village Residents Ponder a Changing Neighborhood After a Homeless Woman's Death

Courtesy Catholic Worker's Maryhouse.
Donna Harris at Christmas, 2014
The memorial service for Donna Harris was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Catholic Worker's Maryhouse in the East Village. But the service itself did not start until after 7:30 as organizers acknowledged the slow-to-arrive crowd. "You have to give them time to come," said Felton Davis, who works at Maryhouse. Indeed, the group soon swelled from five to nearly fifty people, most of whom knew Harris only in passing.

If you live near Tompkins Square Park, chances are you knew her, too. Harris, who had been homeless for at least the last decade, was known for her bright blue nail polish and unabashed commentary to passersby: "She didn't want people's pity," attendee Amanda Daloisio said, laughing. "And she was not meek and mild."

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New York Post: City Government Is "Too Generous" With Homeless Families

Image via Google Maps
The Auburn Family Residence, the shelter described in the NYT series.
Is the latest New York Post editorial a parody of a New York Post editorial? Written by an angry libertarian teenager who doesn't understand why poor people can't "just get a job," like the afternoon gig he's got at Wingstop that helps pay for his Xbox games? That's seemingly the only way to parse this demented masterpiece, written in response to the New York Times's heartbreaking five-part series on the city's homeless families, "Invisible Children."

The NYT series focused on one 11-year-old girl, Dasani, who makes her home in Fort Greene's Auburn Family Residence, a falling-down shelter that houses nearly 300 other homeless children and their families. The series is a painstaking, precise look at how Dasani's family got there; her mother, Chanel, and stepfather, Supreme, are both unemployed drug addicts who struggle to provide for Dasani and her seven siblings. But the series also lays some serious blame with the city and the Bloomberg administration:

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The Subway Homeless Rate Rises As More Unsheltered Go Underground

We've been hit with two incredibly significant statistics of Gotham income's reality over the past few months. First, the homelessness levels in this city right now are that of the Great Depression. And second, half of New Yorkers live in or near poverty. Now that we're settled into the situation here, let us move on.

City statistics show that the rate of homeless people sleeping on the subways rose by 13 percent this year - a steady increase underground that has unfortunately gone on for some time now. In 2005, the approximation was around 845; eight years later, that number is around 1,850. Above ground, the homeless population sleeping on the streets dropped by a mere 2 percent.

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Homeless Shelter With Sexual Offenders Opens In Greenpoint, Residents Pissed

In October, we heard about a homeless shelter immediately opening in Carroll Gardens, much to the dismay of local residents. Since August, the Department of Health Services personnel had been (and continue to be) overwhelmed with the accelerating rate of the homeless population, unable to find space in the five boroughs. As a result, the Bloomberg administration had notified the Community Board in the hyper-gentrifying neighborhood only days before.

And the same thing just (sorta) happened in Greenpoint.

Yesterday, the Daily News reported on the building at 400 McGuiness Boulevard, which has been there since August as well. The location is an assessment shelter, evaluated over time to determine if a long-term facility is needed. Except the City opened it without telling nearby residents.

And there's one characteristic of the story that's a bit different: the shelter is home to a few convicted sexual offenders.

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The NYC Homeless Population Is at Its Highest Level Since the Great Depression

Remember when Mayor Bloomberg said a few weeks ago, "Nobody's sleeping on the streets"? Well...

At that time, the Coalition of the Homeless furiously responded by telling reporters that there was "no accurate measurement of New York City's unsheltered homeless population, and recent city surveys significantly underestimate the number of unsheltered homeless New Yorkers." So, almost immediately, City Hall released a quick statement, arguing that its main vocalist had misquoted himself and meant to say that he was simply rounding down (... to zero).

And then, yesterday, this became news.

The Coalition for the Homeless released a report to the press, stating that the population of those living in shelters has topped 50,000 for the first time since Great Depression. The number is 50,135, on average, to be exact. And a little less than half of that number consists of children.

Unfortunately, as spectacular as that landmark seems, it shouldn't come as much surprise.

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Carroll Gardens Residents Upset Over Plans For Homeless Shelter. Ugh.

Like most gentrified neighborhoods in New Brooklyn, Carroll Gardens looked completely different only a decade ago. There were no coffee shops or strollers on Smith Street and the brownstones were not obsessively recognized for their aesthetic charm just yet. It was a lower-income neighborhood on the brink of a migratory explosion.

So when the Bloomberg administration sent a letter last week to the residents of the quasi-bourgeoisie neighborhood about an incoming homeless shelter on West 9th and Court, the residents freaked. Almost immediately, shouts of the common "Not in my backyard!" reverberated from the community. 
It's funny how that can work, huh? The recent transplants are frustrated that even more recent transplants are on the way. And this is strange because the neighborhood is no stranger to Department of Health programs: a housing complex for abused women and a clinic for heroin addicts already exists.

With the homeless population in New York drastically spiking in past months, City Hall has had to quickly open homeless shelters across the City, finding spots for the 47,000 or so living on the streets. And one of these locations happens to be in Carroll Gardens, where the administration seeks to open a facility, run by Aguila Incorporated, that can hold about 170 of the City's homeless. 
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Mike Bloomberg Opened Homeless Shelters on the Upper West Side. Gasp!

Not all Upper West Siders have this attitude. Just most of them.
The U.S. economy is in the shitter, and with that comes high unemployment, which, naturally leads to more homeless people. So in response to the spike in homelessness, Mayor Mike Bloomberg has set up homeless shelters in some of New York City's pricier neighborhoods.

And who lives in New York's pricey neighborhoods? Rich people, that's who -- most of whom don't seem too thrilled with their new neighbors or the mayor's decision to give them glamorous new mailing addresses without neighborhood consent.

Bloomberg -- who by our count currently owns 11 homes -- said in August that, "We have made our shelter system so much better that, unfortunately, when people are in it, or, fortunately, depending on what your objective is, it is a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before."

In other words, New York City's homeless shelters perhaps are becoming too nice -- so nice that people don't want to leave.

This, apparently, is a problem for the haves in New York's wealthier areas..

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City Council to Mayor's Administration: Stop Blaming Homelessness Epidemic on State Legislature and the Economy

Jason Lewis/ Village Voice
Councilman Brad Lander grills DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond during hearing.
At a committee meeting held yesterday, City Council members told the Department of Homeless Services to start coming up with better solutions, not temporary fixes and excuses, to combat the rapid rise of homelessness in the city.

"We're in crisis mode, and if we don't do something over the next 16 months, then we're going to be left with a situation that's going to be getting worse, not better -- under a new administration," Councilman Stephen Levin said at yesterday's hearing.

"As much time as [the new administration is] going to take to figure out what to do, we're going to be well over 50,000 people in New York City on any given night in the shelter system."

The Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness estimates that some 20,749 children will spend this Christmas housed in a shelter -- a figure not seen since the Great Depression.

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Mike Bloomberg And His 11 Homes Think New York Homeless Shelters Are Too Damn Nice. Homeless Disagree

King Bloomberg thinks he's coddling the peasants.
According to Mayor Mike Bloomberg, there's a reason the less fortunate are staying in homeless shelters 30 percent longer than they have in the past: New York City's homeless shelters are just too damn nice.

In response to a Wall Street Journal report that found the average length of stay for families with children in city homeless shelters has shot up by more than 30 percent during the last fiscal year, Hizzoner said the following:

"We have made our shelter system so much better that, unfortunately, when people are in it, or, fortunately, depending on what your objective is, it is a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before."

It's that "pleasurable experience" part that has raised a few eyebrows (read: pissed off just about everyone).

We spoke to a few homeless people on our way into the office this morning, none of whom consider living in a homeless shelter to be a "pleasurable experience."

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Maria Montealegre Finds Shelter (Sort of), Public Advocate, Councilmember Robert Jackson Say Help Is On Its Way (Update)

maria's stuff.jpg
El Diario
95 percent of the Montealegres belongings
"The whole marshal encounter was surreal," Andres Mares Muro said about Maria Montealegre's eviction that went down late afternoon this past Monday. "She vomited afterwards, her kids wept lots."

Muro, a former staff member of the Mirabal Sisters Cultural and Community Center in Hamilton Heights, has been helping Montealegre, and her family, throughout her housing/eviction situation since the beginning, exchanged texts with the Voice throughout Monday evening informing us that after going to various shelters, and being turned away, Montealegre and her kids ended up in a Queens motel.

After we reported that neither Mirabal, Public Advocate, Urban Justice Center, Housing Preservation Department, nor Councilmember Robert Jackson, did little to help Montealegre avoid eviction or attain housing--let alone take over 1985 Amsterdam Ave. or hold Moshe Samovha accountable for his multiple housing violations, we got some angry phone calls. More »