Checking in on NYC’s Ambitious Homeless Shelter Overhaul, 18 Months Later

On a recent weekday morning, the cafeteria of the Bergen House in Crown Heights, Brooklyn was quiet. Seated around long plastic tables, residents from the 104-bed homeless shelter for senior men played dominoes and chatted. One man built small figurines from wooden tongue depressors. The fluorescent-lit room was mostly bare, save for a few posters, a bulletin board, and a large, multicolored mural.

Eighteen months ago, that freshly painted mural served as the backdrop to a much more raucous scene: a packed public meeting, the first held after news broke that the low-slung beige building, once a daycare, would become a homeless shelter. During the meeting, Crown Heights residents vented their anger and shouted down city officials and shelter representatives for hours.