Greenpoint Homeless Shelter On Milton St; Residents Less Than Thrilled

If you live in Greenpoint, you are aware of the homeless population. As it gets considerably colder, the need for warm shelter is of great importance.

I recently received an email from a concerned resident on Milton St regarding a newly opened shelter at the Greenpoint Reformed Church, who has witnessed and heard stories about public urination and defecation on the block as well as smashed liquor bottles and a man sleeping in her front yard.

Despite this she, ”fear[s] that there will never be an acceptance of the services that the church provides, unless they move off Milton St.”

She referred a neighbor to me, a homeowner who started a task force against the shelter, who despite reaching out to me, failed to answer my questions.

How would you feel about a homeless shelter on your block? What if your block was as pretty as Milton where the property values are in the multimillions? A drunk man vomiting on your lawn isn’t so pretty. “Not in my backyard!” Then where?

How about in your own home?

Ann Kansfield, pastor of Greenpoint Church, who lives above the church and the homeless shelter explained the situation:

The situation is a little more complicated than just “we have a homeless shelter at the church” … In a nutshell, it’s a 10-bed program operated by Common Ground on behalf of the City for LOCAL homeless folks. This was in response to many people’s demands that “the city do something” about local Polish homelessness. The total cost for the entire program is $100,000, 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.

In a recent 94th Community Council Meeting, as recorded by New York Shitty, Stephen Levin spoke about the shelter and said it wasn’t Ann or Jen’s (co-pastor) “idea,” rather they offered the space after the community asked for it years back. He went on to explain that it is unique for the city to fund a church shelter, which are usually volunteer, and  in this case a professional staff supervises the residents.

What are your thoughts on the newly opened shelter on Milton St?

About Jen G

After living in NYC my entire life, I found the strongest sense of community in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Running this blog is truly an honor and the best part is meeting its readers in real life. Everyday I am energized by smiles and inspiring conversations with fellow Greenpointers who tirelessly do and create incredible things that are good for our community and share the same love I have for life here. If you see me walking with my little dog "D" - please say hi!

28 Comments

  1. Reader says:

    I live on Milton and recently saw someone urinating up towards Manhattan Avenue in the middle of the day though I have no evidence to connect this to the new shelter. All I know is it’s freezing out now and sleeping outside is not an option. I do understand neighbors being concerned though as there as several families on the block with small children.

    Reply
    • Jen G says:

      Thanks. This is definitely not a localized problem that just happens on Milton St. I live over by McGolrick Park and has men urinating and defecating in the streets and had to nudge a man who was sleeping in the middle of the sidewalk to make sure he was still alive. I wish there was a shelter nearer to “this side” that would help these individuals. Parents report that homeless people use the playground as a toilet. Not good for children.

      Reply
  2. Sutton St. says:

    I feel that the homeless and the needy should be our communities primary concern. What does it say about our neighborhood if we cannot care for the ones with the least? I wouldn’t mind if this were near my apartment, I mean, it wouldn’t be lovely but we need to do something.

    Reply
    • Jen G says:

      Thanks. And let’s face it. Greenpoint Church already does so much for the community. There are at least a dozen other churches. No one else exactly stepped up. We should see this for what it is. A church caring for the less fortunate during a time when they literally could die from freezing to death, which has happened in recent years. It isn’t something they want to hide, it’s not necessarily something they event want in the church with all other other things going on. It’s that they felt compelled to care for people who are otherwise not cared for. They should be applauded for taking this on. And not made to seem like they are trying to be tricksters. Something had to and still has to be done. Other churches should also follow Greenpoint Church’s example and open their doors. Isn’t this what churches are there for?

      Reply
  3. Ann says:

    One correction to your article, we were asked to host this program only in the early fall. Originally it was going to be at the Church of the Ascension, but they were unable to host the program. We didn’t conceive of this program, nor do we operate it. Common Ground operates it out of our space.

    Reply
  4. Daniel says:

    A perennial, tired complaint. I appreciate the frustrations and concerns of neighbors, but adapt and live with it, folks. The homeless do not simply disappear when a shelter shutters. I commend Kansfield and the others involved.

    Reply
    • Diamond Joe says:

      I have to second this. Where I live on Diamond Street there are homeless men peeing, pooping, crapping, vomiting, yelling, smashing bottles nearly every day. I appreciate that Milton and other streets may have been a quiet haven from the realities that other parts of the neighborhood live with, but it’s hard for me to be terribly sympathetic. The homelessness in our neighborhood is a shared social problem with complex solutions. If these guys are breaking the law PD can arrest them, but that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem as they will be back out a few days later. My understanding is that many of our local homeless have been reached but basically refuse assistance like alcohol abuse treatment or job training. They also may not speak English or even Polish that well. They are perfectly content with being drunk homeless disorderly defecating beggars until the day they die. So the bigger question isn’t where to put the shelter but is there any way to actually improve their lives in a way that changes this behavior?

      Reply
  5. Ed S. says:

    I am a resident of Milton Street. I wonder if the church has a working bathroom for its patrons. If the church doesn’t have the proper facilities, it shouldn’t be serving food or housing people.

    I’ve seen guys stumble out of the food kitchen on Wednesdays and piss in full view of passersby right in front of the church or nearby. I caught one pissing on my car recently.

    I’ve also seen guys come out of the church basement at night where I assume is where the homeless are being housed and piss on the sidewalk. Again, no working bathroom? What exactly is the job description of the Common Ground employees who watch these guys that they do nothing to prevent this?

    I was upset when the food kitchen started. I put up with it. I was upset when the food pantry on Thursdays started (there’s issues with this too), but I put up with it. Now, without any notice to the neighbors, this homeless program was started. I’m tired of “adapting and living with it.”

    Reply
  6. Ann says:

    Yes, the church has working restrooms and people are encouraged to use them. If we see anyone relieving themselves in public, that person is not allowed to eat here for a month. I would encourage any neighbor who witnesses public urination to call the police and report it.

    Reply
  7. Rolf Carle says:

    Thank you for asking what my thoughts are on the newly opened homeless shelter on Milton Street?

    However, First my thoughts on Greenpointer’s article which fails to mention that many residents on Milton Street did not learn about the homeless program until after it had been approved by the city and then, only by sketchy articles in the media. The block, as far as I know, has never been informed about this shelter. This is perhaps where the “fear [s}” Ann Kansfield writes about is coming from. Additionally, if one resident is crying NYMBY to Greenpointer then let me assure you this is not what I’m hearing from my direct neighbors, and If you look at the reasons other churches in Greenpoint have given to not house this shelter program, Not In My Church Basement, could also be said. My thought here is that reporting sensationally about name-calling doesn’t elevate the issue.

    My thoughts on the Greenpoint Church: Over the years, the consensus on Milton Street has been very supportive of the many programs the Greenpoint Church has put forward. The criticism, in a letter Greenpointer alludes to which was distributed throughout Milton Street by several residents who live directly across from the church, did not dwell only on the shelter, rather the collective impact of all the programs the church has on the block. Ann Kansfield recently wrote on the Church’s website that she realizes the impact the church and it’s programs have on the block but when it came to this shelter program, she could no longer “morally say no”. Well. Shouldn’t morality also dictate to inform thy neighbor!? The result of not doing so has led to uncertainty and begs the question: Oh dear Lord, What do thou have next for our dear Milton Street? Don’t we deserve better?

    I know you didn’t ask but here are my thoughts on Councilman Steven Levin: He owes the neighbors on Milton Street an explanation as to why this has all been done with stealth and secrecy. He has known specific details since September but has only vaguely informed the community at large a few days ago (at a precinct meeting which Greenpointer reported on, thank you Greenpointer!) and this was months after the shelter opened. What are Councilman Levin’s thoughts about his own lack of transparency? One article quotes Pat McDonnell; head of the North Brooklyn Homeless Task Force, the organization responsible for finding locations for the shelter program, as saying the reason the location of the shelter has remained secret was, “…to avoid unnecessary protests by residents.” Councilman Levin’s chief of staff has been on this Task Force for four years. Is it Steve’s policy to keep constituents in the dark until after the fact? Is this what we should expect from government leadership?

    Additionally, an email I received from the district manager at Community Board 1, states there has been no formal request to vet this shelter on a community wide level, which the law requires.

    Oh yeah, I was going to tell my thoughts on this newly opened facility but truthfully, I know nothing about it’s details because my City, my Councilman and most importantly my neighbor has told me NOTHING about it!

    Rolf Carle
    127 Milton Street

    Reply
    • Jen G says:

      Thanks for your comment, Rolf. Not sure what you mean by “reporting sensationally about name calling.” As far as the “letter” is concerned, you are correct: a letter was never sent out by the church or Levin to Milton St residents. I can see why you would want notice regarding the shelter as a resident of the block, however and why it would make you wonder what other things will develop without you being aware.

      Reply
      • Rolf Carle says:

        Jen, I probably could have stated it better and as I re-read your article and my reply, I can see why you question my “sensational/name-calling” comment. My sincere apologies. You put the “NIMBY” comments in quotes and I’m not sure why or who said it, but admittedly grammar and syntax are not my specialty. My simple point is, let’s not begin this conversation framed by NIMBY or even this being about a homeless shelter when the lack of outreach has contributed to the present situation. Thanks, Rolf

        Reply
      • Ann says:

        That isn’t true. We posted a notice about this to the church website in early-December. Teresa even “liked” it on my Facebook page. I don’t know the exact date, but I think it was around the 12th. It would have been earlier, but we were swamped with Sandy relief efforts and Thanksgiving, additionally I had been sick/exhausted for at least a week during that time.

        Reply
        • rolf says:

          Posting on Facebook is not exactly public notice. There are so many excuses going around, from everyone, that I question the professionalism involved, considering it’s a 100K city program.

          Reply
  8. R says:

    Jen , Here is a post from Joe Lentol maybe you saw it:
    NYC Department of Homeless Services will conduct the Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE). They need thousands of volunteers! Click here for more information: on.nyc.gov/6K77ml

    Post the info if you like but not with my name- R

    Reply
  9. Teresa says:

    I have a home on Milton Street. Most of us support the work of the church. It’s a testament to the compassion and goodwill of the neighbors that there’s been minimal complaint about the church’s programs. We all want to be supportive. But we’re always the last to know; each new program gets sprung on us and we feel blindsided. The issue isn’t the shelter – the issue is that people are now wondering what comes afterward, with no communication whatsoever from the church. We’d like to be given an opportunity to be supportive, instead of being taken for granted. We all try to be good neighbors to each other, and to the church. We’re not seeing any reciprocity from the church, and the effect of zero communication/announcements regarding the soup kitchen, the food pantry, various meetings, and the shelter has us now feeling overwhelmed – NOT by the programming but by the fact that we’re never included. There’s no outreach. That is the core of the issue, and it’s a real issue. If there is a drama now, it’s because of the church’s chronic habit of secrecy. At this point they’ve exceeded their goodwill credits. It’s time to change and be more open with neighbors. It’s about creating and cultivating a healthy and neighborly dialogue; it’s about common courtesy and respect. Again, that is the issue for Milton Street residents.

    Reply
  10. anonymous says:

    Just because Milton street has been one of the prettiest streets with the finest homes in Greenpoint for 150 years doesn’t mean it isn’t fair and right to not mess it up. Redistribute the wealth, and redistribute the puke and shit. Why should the other streets bear the brunt? It wouldn’t make sense to put a shelter on say, Diamond, where they are already pissing and shitting on people’s property. Don’t allow Milton to have anything enviable, because that just incites jealousy and scorn. Put a shelter on Oak and Noble. They have it too nice on those streets. Spread this far and wide, so it will be fair and even for everybody. Decentralize the horrible, because that is democratic. Also, make all these deals behind closed doors. I am so tired of listening to these Nimbys protest and complain. With all the money they must have to live on Milton, they should be grateful they can live there anyway.

    Reply
  11. hh says:

    As a frequent volunteer at GP soup kitchen, I can say that I’m pretty sure the ‘secrecy’ that has been imagined is really just a result of exhaustion. If neighbors want to keep tabs on what is going on at the kitchen/pantry they should come help out. I know a community meeting is in the works, but nothing stops interested neighbors from stopping by during the soup kitchen or food pantry to help make bags or serve dinner. I can promise that there is nothing nefarious about the operation and that the ‘pissers’ aren’t nearly as threatening as they are being made out to be.

    Reply
    • Rolf Carle says:

      HH, The secrecy and stealth I spoke in my reply has nothing to do with the soup kitchen, in fact I think its a great program. The secrecy came from the North Brooklyn Homeless Task Force which according to a news article http://voicesofny.org/2012/09/greenpoint-to-add-two-more-homeless-shelters/ was not releasing the address of the shelter program “…to avoid unnecessary protests by residents.” The question is, who are the members of this Task Force? If you would like an answer, I will supply it. – Rolf Carle-Milton Street

      Reply
      • Ann says:

        Hi Rolf,
        If you take a look at the photo that’s included in that article you linked to, you don’t see me. That’s because I wasn’t a part of the “North Brooklyn Homeless Task Force” in 2012. I had attended meetings in the past, but hadn’t made meetings for quite some time, at least a year. The “address of the program” that was mentioned in the article was the Church of the Ascension. That’s why you’ll see Father John Merz in the photo. To the best of my memory, Fr. John and Ascension realized that they wouldn’t be able to host the program at some time in October. It wasn’t until Nov. 5th that the Greenpoint Reformed Church agreed to host this. In between there was a hurricane. A decision about hosting this had to be made quickly, before the weather turned really cold. We thought we were being helpful, ensuring that none of these guys would freeze to death.

        Reply
        • rolf says:

          Ann, I spoke with people on Java and Kent Streets and no outreach had been done there either. I think it’s safe to say that all those involved did not plan to tell residents about the respite program. It wasn’t until Jan 24th at your and Steve Levin’s forum that the respite program was discussed localy, It took three months after it’s implementation for those most impacted, Milton Street residents, to be notified.

          Reply
  12. Jen G says:

    Thanks. First Father John, you rule! Secondly, I am reposting this as it’s own post.

    Reply
  13. Pingback: A Comment From Father John Re: Milton St Respite | Greenpointers

  14. August says:

    That $100,000 could have housed those ten men in REAL STUDIO APARTMENTS for an entire year!

    Reply
  15. August says:

    There’s more BOOZE & DRUG USE in those million dollar neighborhood homes than have ever been use by the homeless people…

    Reply

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