Existing space in Ridgewood Presbyterian Church, located at the intersection of Forest and 70th avenues, would be utilized for up to 15 beds. Needy individuals would be referred to the church on a nightly basis by Breaking Ground, the city’s largest supportive housing provider.
The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) confirmed that church officials reached out to them and asked how they could help with the city’s homeless issues, but a spokesperson stressed the site is not technically a homeless shelter, drop-in center or safe haven.
“Homelessness affects every community across New York City—and as we address this citywide challenge, we’ve invited communities to work with us, make suggestions, and raise ideas so that we can figure out how collaboration can best serve our homeless neighbors,” said DHS press secretary Isaac McGinn.
He added, “In this instance, the Ridgewood church reached out to us—as dozens of houses of worship have across the city—asking how they could help and seeking to open their space overnight to a small number of homeless New Yorkers in need, so we connected them with Breaking Ground, our nonprofit partner coordinating street homeless outreach efforts in Queens.”
Pastor Victoria Moss said the church has tried to provide seniors in the neighborhood with quality of life services for a long time, and this would be another step towards fulfilling that goal.
“We’ve actually had a church member of two and people connected to the senior center in situations where gentrification in the neighborhood has forced them to leave their homes,” she said.
Moss said people are being forced to live in garages or other unsafe spaces.
“We just want to provide this as a temporary solution for people who are transitioning from these unsafe situations,” she said.
Currently, there’s no agreement in place and no official date for the site to begin operating. The church would fully staff the site, which would include a dedicated program director and case management services for clients.
Once the site is operational, outreach teams would work with the clients to build a trusting relationship that they hope would result in accepting services and transitioning off the streets.
Breaking Ground would aim to work with a consistent set of clients they will screen and hope will come from the immediate area.
"Around New York City, dozens of faith leaders and houses of worship have stepped up to help the homeless in their communities, and Breaking Ground's street outreach teams are proud to partner with them,” a spokeswoman for the company said in a statement. “Since 1990, Breaking Ground has helped more than 13,000 people escape and avoid homelessness."
There is some concern over the childcare that he church already offers at the site, but DHS confirmed there would be no overlap between the homeless services and the three-day childcare program or the senior center.
“It’s not going to take space away from any existing groups,” Moss said, noting that any homeless people staying there for the night would be gone by 7 a.m.
Dmytro Fedkowskyj, who chairs Community Board 5's Homelessness Committee, said if the mayor and DHS are trying to build relationships with communities, information like this site should be shared and discussed.
“That is a huge concern form a community board perspective,” he said. “The lack of transparency is of absolute paramount concern. We want to be involved and proactive.”
Fedkowskyj said the committee has discussed ways it could work within the community to address the homeless problem.
“One of the things we decided was that we would support a faith-based organization helping our homeless,” he said, adding that such a site would be smaller than a shelter and more accountable to local residents.