Westway Inn is a no-win situation for DHS
Jan 21, 2015 | 11829 views | 0 0 comments | 406 406 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When the Department of Homeless Services designated the Westway Motor Inn at 71-11 Astoria Boulevard as an emergency homeless shelter last summer, local Astoria residents were outraged by the lack of communication and advanced notice about the change, and now it looks like their outrage is justified.

Ever since the shelter was turned from an overnight facility into a transitional housing unit, a slew of new problems has arisen in the community, and some of them are seriously troubling.

Neighbors of the facility recount stories of small children playing in the parking lot outside the shelter until the wee hours of the morning, of needles and other paraphernalia are being found at a nearby elementary school, and of forceful panhandlers disrupting the community.

For many years, the Astoria community has been more than welcoming to the 36 or so families that have lived at the Westway Inn overnight as they enter into the city’s shelter system.

But now, residents say that DHS is imposing on their kindness by raising the number of families housed at the shelter to 121, and extending their stay from one night to as long as one year or more, as is the case for many living in transitional housing.

In our opinion, the plan to turn the Westway Inn in Astoria into a transitional housing unit for families of up to six people is a prime example of a public-private partnership gone wrong in New York City.

While the group running the shelter is obviously well-intentioned, the Westway is a poor example of their ability to execute and given evidence, and testimony from immediate neighbors of the facility, the Department of Homeless Services should absolutely not award a contract to this management company without first undertaking a thorough review of the realities on the ground.

Beyond all of this, the idea of housing a family of six for up to a year in a motel room built for two to four people, one that has been made even more cramped by the retrofitting of a kitchenette, is bad policy.

Our city’s government should know better than to try to pass off such haphazard execution as a solution to our current homeless crisis.

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