Williamsburg and Greenpoint have a unique homeless problem because most of the individuals speak little to no English. While there are resources for some of New York City’s non-English speaking homeless populations, there are far fewer, if any, for those people who speak only Polish.
So what happens to them? Sadly, many fall into depression and alcoholism and camp out in McGolrick and McCarren parks. It’s in these parks that five homeless people have died in the past fifteen months. At least two of those were suicides, the most recent one happening in October.
Now, the New York City Department of Homeless Services is stepping in, offering Greenpont’s churches $100,000 to give the local homeless population a place to sleep for the night. Currently, St. Anthony of Padua on Manhattan Ave. opens its doors at night, but only when temperatures drop below 24 degrees.
But it seems that $100K isn’t enough for local churches to take on the responsibility. According to one paper, the money has been on the table for six months, during which time seven churches have rejected the offer. Officials at the various churches have cited limited space and fear of theft and vandalism as reasons for not accepting the money.
Meanwhile, local residents have been fighting a 200-bed homeless shelter planned for McGuinness Boulevard since 2010. Greenpoint’s city councilman Steve Levin complained that the neighborhood is “inundated with services that we provide to the rest of the city [...] on a level that no other neighborhood has to do.” Last May, Levin hosted a “Rally to Stop The Proposed Homeless Shelter,” which drew significant community support.
According to the Department of Homeless Services’ statistics for 2011, Brooklyn has 242 homeless individuals on its streets.