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The city canceled its plan to send clients to a new, nonprofit homeless shelter on a residential street in Elmhurst out of privacy concerns, the city Human Resources Agency said.
“HRA terminated the MOU to protect the confidentiality of our clients,” said agency spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio, referring to the memorandum of understanding between the city and the group, Queens Alliance Inc., to refer homeless clients to the shelter. She declined to further describe what the confidentiality concerns were.
In an open letter to the Elmhurst community, the company that established the shelter, Queens Alliance, said it would provide housing to HIV-positive and AIDS patients not exhibiting any symptoms. Neighbors and civic leaders pointed out confidentiality concerns about that disclosure during a protest in front of the facility July 11.
Queens Alliance did not return a phone call seeking comment.
“That’s one battle won,” said Roe Daraio, president of Citizens Of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together, a civic group that helped organize the neighborhood’s opposition to the project, which was not required by law to be subjected to a public review process.
The shelter opened its doors last month at 86-18 58th Ave. in what was once a convent belonging to St. John’s Hospital. It had not received any clients yet from the city Human Resources Administration.
Ben Branham, a spokesman for City Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), whose district includes the sliver of Elmhurst where the shelter is located, said the councilwoman had been informed July 22 that homeless people would not be sent to the facility.
“We’re certainly very happy to see that these concerns have been listened to, but at the same time, we think it’s very much a priority that a proper location is found,” Branham said of the homeless shelter. “I’m not sure to what extent we’ll play a role in that.”
Queens Alliance did hold a public information meeting with the public last month, hearing residents’ concerns about their children’s safety and the fact that the shelter is located across the street from housing for the mentally disabled.
The city Department of Buildings also received complaints about the building not displaying a proper certificate of occupancy for the 29-unit shelter, though Queens Alliance had a valid temporary certificate of occupancy through July 27. The group still holds a long-term lease for the site and it was unclear what would become of the four-story brick building.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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