Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Shelter that Drew Ire Working with CB 10 by Anna Gustafson - Queens Chronicle

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Officials at a South Ozone Park homeless shelter have been working with area residents to ensure their concerns about safety are heeded after the Skyway Family Center transitioned from hosting families to solely adult males, Community Board 10 members said.

“They have rearranged their security guard schedules so they mesh with the schedule of the nearby school,” CB 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton said at the board’s meeting last Thursday.

Residents have been worried that security guards at the shelter located at 132-10 South Conduit Ave. would change shifts at the same time as PS 124’s dismissal time, potentially leaving the men unguarded at a time when many children were around the area.

Braton said there have been no problems reported between the men at the shelter and the students. Still, Councilman Ruben Wills (D-South Ozone Park) said the shelter’s close proximity to the school is worrisome.

“They have five registered sex offenders in a shelter a block away from a school,” Wills said.

After the community voiced concerns about the lack of security guards, shelter officials changed the schedules so there are always guards on duty when school is in session and during dismissal.

“They also said they will provide an outdoors space for residents so they don’t have to go into the neighborhood to hang out,” Braton said.

Community residents and legislators, particularly Wills, were irate after the city reclassified the shelter as a place only for adult males without seeking input from the board, the school or area residents.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeless Services said the move was necessary to accommodate an increase in the number of single males seeking spots at city shelters.