Why is Elmhurst United protesting against the conversion of the Pan Am hotel into a homeless shelter, which already house close to 200 families? Here are 8 big reasons:
1) Deception by DHS–The decision to open a homeless shelter was made by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and Samaritan Village (SV) without any inputs from or notifications to the community or to the elected officials.
2) Fair share—Elmhurst already has 3 other residential social services facilities – the Mets Motel, the Queens Adult Care Center (formerly the notorious Leben Home) for low income seniors or seniors with mental health issues, and a state-run mental health facility behind the former St. John’s Hospital.
3) Overburdened resources— School District 24 is the most overcrowded school districts in the city. 70% of applications for Universal Pre-K are declined as the average is 38% for the city of New York. Since St. John’s Hospital closed down in 2009, Elmhurst Hospital is the only hospital left in the area and the emergency room is always crowded.
4) Potential increase in crimes— DHS do not do background checks on homeless people requiring emergency housing. Among 35 people with outstanding warrants, 22 people were arrested in a recent police raid at the Freedom House on West 95th Street on (May 23, 2014).
5) Loss of hotel tax revenue—No hotel means no hotel tax on tourists who come to visit Queens. Ironically, the local homeowners along with other city tax payers will now foot the bill for this loss of tax revenue and the homeless shelter.
6) Warehousing is not the answer–Homeless shelters and especially one of this scale are not the solutions, putting 200 families in such a crowded space is not beneficial to any victims of homelessness. They should be in affordable housings, where the children can continue to go to schools and the parents can seek employment and rebuild their lives.
7) Blatant abuse of taxpayer money – On average DHS pays $120 a night to house a family in the Pan Am Homeless Shelter in a single room while the average monthly rent in Queens in the fourth quarter of 2013 was $1,662. Even homeless shelter residents are outraged at the incredibly inflated price paid to shelter them, they rather that money be used to assist them in paying rent for permanent housing. Also, the average cost to store the belongings of a homeless family is $1,549 per month. Hence the total cost to house a family is over $5,000 a month!
Even Mayor de Blasio admits spending on homeless storage program needs to be reined-in
8) Uncertainty–The Pan Am Homeless Shelter can be change to house single adults like DHS did at the Skyway Family Center.
Our protest is NOT directed at the homeless families. They are essentially the silent victims, and cannot be blamed. As we see it, they are just bodies occupying space to provide financial benefit for the shady landlords and the non-profit operators at the expense of the taxpayers.
* The protest is directed at the individuals who decided to make the Pan Am hotel a homeless shelter, or those who allowed it to happen – Mayor de Blasio, DHS, Samaritan Village (non-profit operating the shelter) and Steve Berger & family (owner of Pan Am bldg.) */>