Emma Whitford | October 8, 2015
The Verve Hotel in Dutch Kills, Queens has been designated as a new, 200-bed homeless shelter for women, with a City takeover scheduled for the coming week.
According to the Mayor’s office, The Verve will be the second City shelter to open this year, and the second to open in Queens. It falls in the jurisdiction of Community Board 1, which includes Long Island City, Astoria and Steinway, as well as Rikers Island.
The hotel is in close proximity to two high schools, and a charter elementary school. “I certainly can understand that some parents might be concerned to learn that a homeless shelter is opening across the street from their child’s elementary school,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer told the Long Island City Post.
He added that Queens has seen a recent influx of hotels, raising questions about the possible conversion of more hotels to shelters. “Going forward, with over 20 hotels just like this one having opened in the Dutch Kills area, we cannot have a domino effect where these hotels all become homeless shelters,” he said.
In response to community safety concerns, the City has stressed that the shelter will have “robust” 24/7 security.
“We’re seeing more single adult women entering our shelter system and we want to ensure we can provide shelter and services, including employment services and clinical services, to these women as they rebuild their lives,” said Mayoral spokeswoman Ishanee Parikh in a statement.
The first new shelter to open in 2015, about 4.5 miles east, took over the former site of the Clarion Hotel in East Elmhurst this August. Last summer, protesters demonstrated outside another new homeless shelter in Elmhurst, shouting, “Pay your rent!” and “Get a job!”
According to the city, there are currently 57,237 people living in the city’s homeless shelters —a decrease since last winter’s record 60,000. 12,316 are homeless adults. The NY Times reports that as of August, the average vacancy rate for single adults at city shelters was 1.1 percent, compared to 1.29 percent for adult couples without children.
In an effort to aid the large homeless adult population, Mayor de Blasio recently announced $10 million in rental assistance for single adults who are either homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless.
“We’ve moved nearly 15,000 individuals into permanent housing through our rental assistance programs, and this is a continuation of our aggressive effort to both prevent homelessness and move New Yorkers from shelter into permanent housing,” Parikh said in August.
Still, some advocates for the homeless continue to stress that more affordable, permanent housing is the only viable solution for curbing the numbers of homeless adults in NYC.
“There is absolutely no way that this city can address homelessness in a real way without two things,” Jeremy Saunders, a lead organizer for Vocal New York, said recently. “First, the mayor needs to start pressing developers in his affordable housing plan and actually set aside units for homeless families. Second, Governor Cuomo needs to actually deliver on funding for supportive housing.”