TOMORROW: Community Forum Regarding The “Respite Center”

January 23, 2013 by
Filed under: 11222, Greenpoint, Greenpoint Brooklyn, Greenpoint Magic 

The one thing that irks me about this weather is not that the fact it is really fucking cold. It is. Rather, it is how it makes my digital camera go completely nuts. Nonetheless, I have managed piece together the announcement for tomorrow night’s “community meeting” (as spied on the gates of the Greenpoint Reformed Church):

January 7, 2013

Dear Neighbors,

I want to take this opportunity to apologize for the way in which information regarding the respite bed program at the Greenpoint Reformed Church was handled. It was not our intent to deceive or mislead you, or to not take your feelings or concerns into consideration. We want to be a good neighbor, and we recognize that what we do has an impact on those who live nearby.

Initial concern regarding the 10-bed program at the church was voiced to Assemblyman Lentol and Councilman Levin, and so they, along with the church, are sponsoring a community forum at 7pm on January 24, 2013 at the church – 136 Milton St. This will allow everyone an opportunity to communicate with one another regarding this situation.

Before Christmas, you may have received a letter that appeared to come from me. Whoever sent the letter excerpted some of what I had written on the church’s website, so it sounded like something I had sent, when in fact I had not. The letter included some factual information, but also some falsehoods.

To clarify, we are providing space for a 10-bed respite shelter program for Greenpoint’s local homeless population that is funded by the City and operated by Common Ground, a non-profit that specializes in working with homeless individuals. Before this program began, these men would sleep in American Playground, on Greenpoint Ave., or in McCarren Park. The program houses the same men each night, and they receive comprehensive case management through Common Ground.

The program operates from 9pm to 6am. To limit congregating along Milton Street, the men meet on the steps of St. Anthony’s at 9pm and are escorted down the block to the church. In the morning, they are escorted off the block. Two professional housing managers are with the men at all times and the men do not leave the church property during the night.

The city has allocated $100,000 for the whole program, the bulk of which goes to pay for two full-time employees being present with the men at all times. The city is only reimbursing the church for building-related costs to host the program. This amounts to 44% of utilities and some small expenses related to hiring someone to clean each day. This is no “windfall” for us.

We did not ask to house this program. For years, Father Czok allowed homeless men to sleep in the basement of St. Anthony’s at the top of Milton St. Upon Rev. Czok’s retirement, this option ceased to be available. The Church of the Ascension was going to host this program, but at the beginning of the fall they entered into a contract with a developer on their parish hall, which caused them to have to back out from hosting the program.

We recognize that our hunger program impacts the street. When it began, we could not have anticipated the number of people in need of food. Over the years, we have tried to learn from mistakes and to adapt in ways that lower the impact this has on your quality of life. Because of some of the concerns we have heard, we are making the following changes:

  • We will not receive large shipments of vegetables from City Harvest unless we are able to process and distribute them in less than 8 hours.
  • We are working with the Food Bank to ensure that our weekly delivery does not arrive before 9am. This may take several weeks to implement, but we are working on it.
  • To keep the line for the pantry as short as possible, we are going to try distributing food as quietly as possible earlier in the day. We do not know if this will work, but we will try it.
  • During the times when people come to the church for food, we will have someone walk the block to ensure that no one lingers or relieves him or herself.
  • We have asked all meetings that use the church not to congregate in front of the church and to enter and leave quietly.

I look forward to meeting with you on Jan. 24. If you see me on the block, feel free to talk with me. You can call me at 718-383-5941 or email ann@greenpointchurch.org. Like many of you, we are currently experiencing issues with our phone and email service thanks to Verizon. But I will do my best to respond to you as soon as possible.

Sincerely yours,

Ann Kansfield
Co-Pastor

Speaking as someone who has lived in this community for 13 years:

  • and has seen these men, our “local” (READ: Polish) homeless perhaps not literally, but figuratively— as long as I can remember
  • has read way too many stories about our “local” homeless dying of hypothermia or being beaten almost to death for simply being “homeless”

Let’s just say I have some very strong feelings about this endeavor. Let the voice of reason— not politics— prevail Greenpointers! Show up and speak up.

Community Forum Regarding the Respite Center
January 24, 2013 starting at 7:00 p.m.
Greenpoint Reformed Church
136 Milton Street
Brooklyn, New York 11222

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