We are writing as Queens residents and members of Queens Community Board 5 – representing Ridgewood, Glendale, Middle Village, and Maspeth – because we’re deeply concerned in how some members of our community have engaged in discussions around city shelter placements.
This public discussion has been dominated by aggressive and hostile hearings and protests largely driven by ideological and political interests. This is unacceptable to us and it is not who we are. We don’t believe in hateful words, or that harassment and intimidation are effective ways to get things done.
For too long, the voices dominating the conversation have been loud and hateful, spreading misinformation and sharing only the facts that support their narrative. And too easily, the voices of homeless New Yorkers have been lost in the midst of this divisive rhetoric.
We want our neighbors to know that these voices – those who chant outside of shelters and hotels, harassing residents – do not speak for us or many other members of our community. We care about struggling New Yorkers. Our spirit of giving isn’t contingent on the presence of cameras. Our community has a rich history and partnership with many social service networks, both religious and secular organizations.
We are proud of this and we want to set an example to our own children and residents citywide on how shelters can successfully serve homeless New Yorkers, and co-exist within communities.
Our community is filled with hardworking, honest people. We’ve all worked hard to build lives and community for ourselves and our families in Queens. We have overcome illness, career struggles, and catastrophe. Some of us – including some authors of this editorial – have experienced homelessness ourselves. We turned to support systems here to help us get back on our feet.
It is unconscionable to us to imagine now turning our backs on others who are struggling, especially the homeless from our community.
We do not exist on an island – we are connected to other communities here in Queens and across the city. We can’t simply point fingers while refusing to be part of the solution. We must take part, as many other communities are, in citywide change to eliminate homelessness.
There is simply no other option.
Neighboring Queens communities like Southeast Queens have long had the most shelters in the borough. Like many primarily-minority neighborhoods citywide, they have historically housed a disproportionate number of social services. This isn’t fair, and we as Queens residents, homeowners, and New Yorkers won’t continue to stand for inequity. On some issues we may disagree with the City but one thing we do agree on is that the only way out of this growing homelessness crisis is for each community to do its part.
We want an end to the theatrics and finger-pointing that offer no real solution. This is not a conservative or liberal issue, it’s a human one. It’s about values.
We want a real dialogue all members of our community at the table talking about how we can create a plan that works for everyone.
This is not just about shelters, this is about a real path to permanent affordable housing so that homeless New Yorkers – those originally from here and those who aren’t – can find a place as members of our community. This is who we really are.
Toby Sheppard Bloch, Carmen Santana, Sarah Feldman, Kathleen Knight