In the perpetual battle against homelessness in New York, the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center in the Bronx was only a bit player, with about 10 beds in its gym. But offering space for even a handful of destitute people meant something to those who benefited from a warm, safe place to sleep, as well as to those who helped provide it.
But this winter, when New York’s homeless population is above 37,000 and shelters are working to increase capacity, the gym now sits empty at night because city officials have ordered the program to close, according to the New York Times.
The situation stands the traditional not-in-my-backyard fight on its head: Here, the community wanted a homeless shelter, but the city did not, and ordered it shut.
“It’s a slap in the face saying ‘Thanks for volunteering, we don’t need you,’ ” said Charlie Shayne, the center’s longtime director.
The Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, an organization that provides thousands of Bronx residents with everything from prenatal care to senior services, is in an old police station house owned by the city and overseen by the parks department. Last spring, parks officials became aware of the overnight homeless program. They said that they were “legally obligated to discontinue it” because “land dedicated for park purposes cannot be conveyed or used for any other purpose,” according to a statement from the parks department.