April 18, 2016 By Jackie Strawbridge
The City is looking to keep a local women’s shelter that was installed on an emergency basis last year in place until at least 2020.
A four-year, $39 million contract is proposed between the Department of Homeless Services and the Acacia Network, the shelter provider of Pam’s Place, located in the former Verve Hotel at 40-03 29th St.
This shelter was quietly opened in October on a six-month emergency basis. Other shelters, such as the Westway Shelter at 71-11 Astoria Blvd, were opened on an emergency basis only to become permanent.
The City is now moving to keep Pam’s Place long-term.
Assembly Member Cathy Nolan spoke against the terms of this contract in a statement.
She said that the contract should be no longer than one year due to “mismanagement” by the Acacia Network, “clearly showing an inability to handle the 200 residents.”
There has been some violence at the shelter since it was installed in October. The 114 Precinct approached Community Board 1 in February regarding two outbursts, and shelter security has since been increased.
Although Nolan acknowledged the extra security and “good efforts” from Acacia to respond to “overt problems,” she added, “I do not have confidence that this provider should be given such a long contract term.”
The Acacia Network did not respond to requests for comment.
Nolan also took issue with the contracting process for this shelter, which has become a recurring theme for the installation of homeless shelters in western Queens.
She said she was provided insufficient notification and shelter information ahead of an April 14 public hearing on the Pam’s Place contract.
“This lack of openness alone should delay the approval of this contract,” she said.
CB 1 District Manager Florence Koulouris said she would defer to Nolan’s judgment regarding the terms of the contract, but noted that in general, the emergency shelter process is “frustrating” and has left people “disenchanted.”
The contract has not yet reached the City Comptroller’s desk for final registration, according to that office.
The DHS did not respond to questions and requests for comment as of press time.
Since this article was published, the DHS responded with the following statement: “Over the past several months, DHS has worked closely with elected officials and community leaders with regard to this facility. All public testimony is taken under advisement and we look forward to continuing a productive dialogue with leaders as we work together to support our clients and the surrounding community.”
The Acacia Network also responded on Tuesday afternoon, stating, “this caring and compassionate Queens community voiced their concern for both the general community members and the shelter clients. Acacia Housing Network along with the NYC Department of Homeless Services set up immediate biweekly meetings with the Community Advisory Board, and the local Police Precinct to ensure an effective, comprehensive response.”
Acacia said that improvements have included dedicating a floor to 50 employed or employable women to provide “support for the employed and hope for the other women,” engaging an “overwhelming majority” of residents in community-based social support and mental health resources, and collaboration between the precinct, DHS Peace Officers, security guards and staff.