Story at a glance
- The West 58th Street homeless shelter opened on New York City’s Billionaires’ Row.
- The shelter was opposed by local residents who said the shelter would bring crime and loitering.
- Despite lawsuits and lobbying by local organizers opposing the shelter, it opened last month and has housed 80 homeless men.
Despite an extensive campaign by a group of New Yorkers that opposed the opening of a homeless shelter on one of the most expensive streets in Manhattan, the shelter has been quietly operating for over a month.
The West 58th Street shelter took over the former Park Savoy Hotel and has become a residence for 80 homeless men, but its existence didn’t come easy. The shelter is sandwiched between multi-million dollar property, known as New York City’s Billionaires’ Row, and a group of local residents coalesced to try and stop it from coming to their neighborhood.
In an organized effort that began in 2017, the West 58th Street Coalition fought an aggressive campaign that involved lawsuits and lobbying to try and keep the homeless shelter from opening. The group describes themselves as, “compassionate New Yorkers,” but took issue with the city not consulting with residents before moving forward with establishing a homeless shelter in their community. They believe mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to tackle homelessness is, “deeply flawed,” and that the city should focus on, “real housing for the homeless, not shelters.”
In 2018, the group filed a lawsuit against the city of New York that argued the shelter would be housed in a building too old and unsafe, and that it would create crime and loitering in the neighborhood. The lawsuit was eventually rejected in 2019 and by 2021, the shelter was opened.
According to the US Interagency Council on Homelessness, the state of New York has the second largest homeless population in the country as of January 2020, with an estimated 91,271 people experiencing homelessness on any given day.
Many hotels in Midtown Manhattan were used as emergency shelters during the pandemic. Establishing a homeless shelter in the former Park Savoy hotel was part of the government’s plan to transition thousands of homeless from commercial hotels back to traditional housing shelters, where multiple residents can sleep in one room.
Catherine Trapani, executive director of Homeless Services United, spoke with local media and said single adult men make up about a third of the shelter system, many of whom are formerly incarcerated which can make it especially difficult to find a place to live.
“This is the population that needs us the most right now. Of course we want permanent housing solutions, and we’re going to continue to work towards that, but in the meantime, these guys need a place to go,” said Trapani to The City.
When New York’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) was able to move forward with the West 58th Street shelter, DHS commissioner Steve Banks also told The City that the efforts brought on by West 58th Street Coalition were, “the longest and the most well-funded litigation,” against a shelter,” in the five boroughs of New York City.
Jim Coughlin, CEO of Westhab, shelter operator of The West 58th Street Shelter, also told local media that he intends for the shelter to, “be a good neighbor,” as well as give job training and housing placement services, “for every individual that comes through our doors.”
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