The brutal killing last week of four men as they slept outdoors in Chinatown has put renewed attention on New York City’s homelessness crisis.
At a vigil for the victims held Monday, residents, lawmakers and activists gathered near the scene of the slayings at Kimlau Square in Lower Manhattan to mourn, according to news site Bowery Boogie, which covered the memorial:
Pizza was delivered to the ever-expanding shrine by Hakki, owner of Champion Pizza, who also left a hand-written letter explaining how he wished he could have helped sooner. “May you always rest in peace my dear brothers,” he wrote at the end, alongside his personal number.
A heartbroken, local resident who recently spoke to [victim] Kwok “Kok” Chen, said that he was a “polite and humble man.” She had also brought him food and along with the help of a neighbor, directed the 83-year-old man to the Bowery Mission with a note in English for a request for assistance.
Some advocates say the violent incident is a “a wake-up call to our politicians, our institutions, and our communities,” renewing demands for additional mental health services and more affordable housing.
“We don’t have a homelessness crisis, we have a housing crisis in this city,” Jason Walker, of the social service organization Vocal New York, told The Villager. You can read the paper’s full coverage of the vigil here.
Nearly 60,000 New Yorkers spent Thursday night in the city’s shelter system, according to the Department of Homeless Services. Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to reform that network by opening dozens of new shelters across the five boroughs, though his attempts to do so have been frequently met with resistance from both residents and lawmakers.
Earlier this week, for instance, hundreds packed a public hearing on a proposal to open a 200-bed shelter for homeless men in Glendale, according to Queens Daily Eagle, which covered the contentious meeting:
At the beginning of the event, hecklers interrupted a moment of silence for the four men killed while sleeping on the sidewalk early Saturday morning.
From there, the dialogue devolved into discriminatory denunciations of people, particularly men, who experience homelessness…
“These homeless men are ‘tranks, lobos and zipheads’ … They’re drug addicts and sexual offenders,’ said one woman who quoted a line from “Back to the Future.” “Put them in a separate area away from society. They should be locked away forever and out of sight permanently.”
Westhab, a nonprofit based in Yonkers, has been tapped to operate the planned Glendale shelter, Queens Ledger reports. The organization expects to offer shelter clients services like case managers and job training, and said that all shelter residents will be “already employed or assessed as employable,” according to the paper.
Meanwhile, plans to convert an existing homeless shelter for women on the Upper West Side into a shelter for men has spurred protests from some in the neighborhood who want it to remain as-is, according to the Manhattan Times.
While the city attributes the switch to a high demand for shelter space for single men, neighbors told the newspaper that the women’s shelter has been a good fit for the neighborhood, and they want it to stay:
“For the last several days, we see women trickle out, in tears,” said Betsy Bergreen of the West 107th Street Block Association, who remarked that local residents have been welcoming to the female shelter residents.
“You don’t see that in every neighborhood,” she said. “It’s heartening that they can come here and feel safe, feel welcomed.”
Another shelter for single men is being planned for Gowanus, Bklyner reported Wednesday.
Slated for a location on Sackett Street, the proposed shelter would house 200, would be run by the nonprofit Fedcap and “will be geared towards single adult men who are employed or actively seeking employment. Fedcap will provide services such as job readiness training and job search assistance, as well as providing on-site employment caseworkers,” according to the news site. You can read the full story here.