As shelters are often overcrowded and some people choose the streets instead, safe haven shelters provide privacy and comfort.
Earlier this month it was revealed that the city is bringing the first of this kind to Community Board 8.
On Jan. 13, CB 8’s Health, Seniors and Social Services Committee voted unanimously in favor of a safe haven shelter run by nonprofit Goddard Riverside that is coming to Yorkville at 419 East 91st Street. A week later the full board approved it.
The seven-story building will offer 88 beds, small rooms with only a few beds and lockers, a rooftop recreation area, meals and social services and will open in January 2022.
“There are folks in our district who are suffering,” CB 8 Board Chair Russell Squire said in the Jan. 13 meeting. “This provides a way to help those people and get them off the street and the services they need. I think it’s a very important thing for us to do.”
One staunch advocate for the safe haven shelter is Council Member Ben Kallos. The lawmaker feels this new model of shelters will make people feel more welcome. Kallos noted that not everyone in a shelter is a drug addict or someone with mental health issues, and even if they are, people need help.
“We need to get people out of hotels,” he stressed. “We need to get people out of some of the older shelters that aren’t as modern. I’m happy to welcome a safe haven shelter.”
“Welcoming and Gracious”
While this is the first in the UES, Kallos hopes more are built in the community and city. There is a shelter two blocks from where he lives and residents have embraced it.
“There are only a handful of people living on the streets of the UES,” he stated. “So much so that people know who they are by name. This will be the tool that will allow us to get people off the streets of the UES.”
Many community members echoed Kallos’s sentiments at the Jan. 13 meeting.
Rev. Roy Cole of the Church of the Epiphany, 1393 York Ave., commended Goddard, the city and CB 8 for allowing this safe haven shelter to come to the area.
Cole explained that the church serves meals to the homeless, and it saddened him to say that every night three homeless people sleep in the alcove of the church.
“It is my experience I find them [the homeless] welcoming and gracious,” he stressed. “We recommend this program and hope the community board will support it.
The support for the shelter even was voiced by young Upper East Siders. Ahana Chandra, a seventh grader at Eastside Middle School, 331 East 91st St., spoke at the CB 8 meeting about the need for shelters.
“I think the safe haven is a great idea and I think it’s very important to help people feel welcome,” she stated. “It’s also important to empathize with others to try to understand how you would feel if you were in that situation. We will never fully understand what people are going through, but we have to at least try. That’s why I fully support the safe haven.”
“There are folks in our district who are suffering. This provides a way to help those people and get them off the street and the services they need.” CB 8 Board Chair Russell Squire