Following the past year’s cutbacks in drop-in centers and other services for homeless New Yorkers sleeping on the streets, Bloomberg administration officials recently announced plans to close the largest drop-in center in the city — and made it clear that the administration has no plans to replace the lost center.
As the New York Daily News reported last week, the Open Door drop-in center — which is located near the Port Authority bus terminal on Manhattan’s west side — is scheduled to close in March. The Open Door currently serves around 200 homeless people each day, and nearly 100 people sleep there each night — and those numbers increase as the weather grows colder. Coalition for the Homeless feeding vans serve meals every night to many Open Door clients, and for months they’ve expressed anxiety and fear about where they’ll be able to get help once the center is closed.
And they’re right to be worried. Plans to close the Open Door follow the closing of two drop-in centers earlier this year: The John Heuss House (in Lower Manhattan), which served homeless people living with serious mental illness, and Peter’s Place (in Chelsea), which served homeless seniors. At the same time, as the Coalition outlined in a briefing paper released earlier this year, the Bloomberg administration cut back on hours and services at many other drop-in centers. Indeed, of the six remaining drop-in centers citywide, three of them now close at night — when shelter from the elements is needed most — and only three are left in Manhattan, where the majority of street homelessness is concentrated. The Open Door is one of the 24-hour centers left in Manhattan.
At a time of record homelessness and rising unemployment, this is clearly not the time to cut back on services for street homeless people. The Coalition urges the City to take immediate steps to find a replacement for the Open Door drop-in center and to ensure that street homeless New Yorkers have access to shelter and vital services.