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Concerns Over Homeless Shelter Top Agenda at Community Meeting

CB2's Health, Environment and Social Services committee met Wednesday night.

The Health, Environment and Social Services Committee of Community Board 2 held a tense meeting Wednesday night as a representative of the city Department of Homeless Services defended his agency's running of the Auburn Shelter on St. Edwards Street and Auburn Place in Fort Greene.

Due to a misunderstanding as to whether DHS received the questions to be asked by committee members in advance, many concerns regarding the homeless shelter remained unaddressed.

DHS representative Alex Zablocki did cover some issues however, including those related to continuing concerns about a lack of proper heating at the shelter during the winter months. Zablocki assured the committee that Auburn has “protocols to check temperature, and clients can be transferred to another room if it’s too cold.”

The most recent questions about heating came months after DHS spent $8 million to repair the facade, including windows, at the facility. At a CB2 meeting in March, members of Fort Greene SNAP, a group critical of DHS' handling of the Auburn Shelter, said the real culprit was a faulty boiler housed next door at Cumberland Hospital.

Other issues were addressed at the meeting.

The Auburn shelter currently only has two microwaves for over 60 families, but Zablocki maintained that mealtimes are staggered so that families aren’t eating all at once.

DHS also addressed fire safety at the shelter, reporting that it was working on getting the system up to date.

The agency also announced the removal of single women from the shelter, making it only for families—as well as a new protocol for reports of verbal abuse of clients by staff.

The committee asked several other questions about elevators breaking down, units being shut down due to roof leakage, and lack of access to restrooms for people with limited mobility.

These concerns remained unaddressed by DHS due to the initial misunderstanding, with Zablocki announcing the formation of a community advisory board to discuss the issues.

Thirty Fifth September 08, 2011 at 02:20 PM
"...but Zablocki maintained that mealtimes are stagnated." He said "staggered," and a journalist would do well to actually look into this and checking its accuracy before reporting it as if it were the truth. A journalist would also do well to speak with Community Board members at a Community Board meeting instead of largely summarizing the comments by a City/DHS spokesperson who has repeatedly come to Community Board meetings and declared he can't answer questions (at last night's Community Board meeting, DHS came about 7 management-staff deep, including the shelter's director, to say "we can't answer anything" -- now that's an efficient use of resources!). With that, a journalist would do well to question a "misunderstanding" like this. Seth Diamond, Commissioner of DHS, sent the team of DHS spokes people and managers to this meeting. It was setup long ahead of time. How can DHS send multiple managers, including the head of the shelter, who can't answer basic questions like providing a description of the bathrooms?
Paul Leonard (Editor) September 08, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Apologies for the misstatement in regards to mealtimes at Auburn Shelter, which has been fixed. As for the critique on the lack of quotes from CB2 committee members in our piece, that is valuable feedback and I will be sure to bring that to the reporter's attention. Thanks for reading.
Melissa Koszer September 09, 2011 at 06:31 PM
Thirty Fifth, Thanks so much for your comments and for catching that typo! As a reporter, it is my duty to remain completely unbiased. If I, at any point, seemed as though I were in favor of either DHS or the Community Board, it was certainly not intended whatsoever. It was, in fact, my first ever Community Board meeting and I wasn't aware of certain protocols when it came to quoting members of the board. I am now aware of said protocols though and I look forward to speaking to all of the Community Board members at the next meeting.

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