Across poor neighborhoods in Brooklyn and the Bronx, referrals by the city’s Department of Homeless Services and its contract shelters are helping to fill scores of illegal rooming houses, according to advocates for the homeless, and turning those neighborhoods into new, hidden kinds of skid rows.
Illegal Boarding Houses Pit City’s Laws Against Lack of Alternatives
A soon-to-be released report by the Coalition for the Homeless found 62 illegally converted houses being used by adults formerly in homeless shelters in the last 18 months. Many were found to have had hazardous conditions by city agencies, including the Fire Department, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Buildings Department.
In the past 18 months, nine of those residences, according to the report, were closed for egregious health or safety violations. Earlier this month, the city announced it would close a building on Seymour Avenue in the Bronx that housed 30 men, about half of whom had been referred from city shelters. The city said that it had sent the men there before violations became apparent.
According to the coalition’s report, the Buildings Department alone has issued more than 226 violations to 47 boarding houses for illegal use as a “homeless shelter,” “single-room occupancy,” or “rooming house,” or for serious deficiencies, including sagging walls, cracked and bulging ceilings and serious fire hazards. Others have been cited for leaks, rat infestations and violation of housing codes that set restrictions on maximum occupancy and rooming unit conversions.