Last week we mentioned that Community Board 3’s health and human services committee was set to hear a proposal for a “safe haven” facility at the Blue Moon Hotel on Orchard Street. That meeting did take place (virtually) on Thursday evening and officials from the NYC Department of Homeless Services were there, but the operator cancelled at the last minute. So while board members and community stakeholders discussed the issue for more than an hour, they did so with few specifics about what the operator, a nonprofit called Not on My Watch, has planned at 100 Orchard St.
A second meeting will be scheduled for early next month, when the founder and CEO of Not on My Watch, Dr. Que English, is expected to be in attendance.
According to city officials, the Lower East Side site will house stabilization beds temporarily. The Department of Homeless Services has stepped up its use of stabilization beds in hotels during the past few months to accommodate homeless individuals unwilling to enter the shelter system. Then the plan is to convert the hotel to a safe haven facility, another alternative to the shelter system which offers various supportive services to people transitioning from homelessness.
Community Board 3 has long supported more safe haven beds on the Lower East Side. You can read about that in the board’s latest District Needs Statement. At the meeting, speakers questioned whether the hotel, situated in what was described as a heavily congested nightlife zone, was the right location for a safe haven facility. Others questioned why the community wasn’t notified in advance about the decision to open a safe haven on Orchard Street. Elected officials and CB3 were told just before the Christmas holiday. The original plan had been to open the facility shortly after the new year.
The city reps acknowledged that Not on My Watch has no prior experience running a safe haven facility. According to its website, the organization is:
…a survivor-led 501(C)3 organization, NOMW’s mission is to combat human trafficking and domestic violence through education and training, community and policy advocacy, providing resources and housing for victims and survivors, and shelter for the homeless. Their newest initiative, HigHPointe, will provide shelter for the homeless, and long-term transitional and permanent housing with comprehensive, culturally-relevant wraparound services for victims and survivors.
The New York Post reported that an unnamed “group of landlords, residents and a restaurant” filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court to block the facility. According to the story, the city agreed to hold off on moving anyone into the building until February 9.
The Blue Moon Hotel has been up for sale for most of the past decade. The refurbished and expanded tenement building includes 22 rooms. The city officials indicated the safe haven facility could house up to 70 individuals.
You can watch the community board’s discussion of the safe haven issue on the video below beginning at 55:00.