A homeless man underneath the train tracks at Myrtle Avenue and Fresh
Pond Road in Glendale, only a block from the Community Board 5 office,
has been refusing help for weeks, area leaders say.
Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District Executive Director Ted Renz called his presence there “an ongoing issue.”
Community members say the man, Pawel, has refused help.
Rev. Mike Lopez of All Saints Church said the city has done some
cleanups of the man’s belongings but that area residents continue to
bring him food, money, coats and blankets.
“I think it comes out
of a good place from people who don’t want to see him get hurt,” Lopez
told the Chronicle Tuesday. “He’s a rather charming gentleman if you’ve
ever had the opportunity to deal with him.”
But the residents might be hurting more than helping.
hope is to bring them indoors. As long as they’re being supported with
their needs it makes it much harder to bring them off the street,” Lopez
said of homeless people, though he acknowledged telling residents not
to help “is almost impossible.”
Lopez has known the man for five
years. Lopez said Pawel, who is in his mid-40s, was a working member of
the community, a carpenter by trade, who became homeless three years
Lopez said Pawel has family but declined to discuss that any further.
“He knows his rights,” Lopez said. “He knows he can’t be forced away.”
outreach efforts is voluntary. In accordance with the state Mental
Hygiene Law, street homeless New Yorkers cannot be involuntarily removed
from the streets unless they pose a danger to themselves or others.
spokesperson for the city’s Department of Homeless Services said
nonprofit service provider Breaking Ground canvasses the area more than
20 times a week and actively engages 24 verified homeless individuals
encountered on the streets in an effort to offer them services and get
“As the weather gets colder, our outreach teams
continue to be out across the five boroughs, implementing best
practices, latest health guidance and Code Blue protocols whenever
appropriate, as they engage unsheltered New Yorkers and encourage them
to accept services,” DHS said.
Councilman Bob Holden (D-Middle
Village) told the Chronicle he visited Pawel with his chief of staff,
Daniel Kurzyna. Holden said he stayed back as Kurzyna, who speaks
Polish, approached him.
“We don’t want to gang up on him,” Holden said. “Dan said he looked white as a sheet.”
lawmaker wants to see the city invoke Kendra’s Law, which allows courts
to order certain individuals with serious mental illness to stay in
treatment for up to a year.
“I didn’t examine him but it doesn’t
take a genius to figure out that if this man would rather live under the
trestle than be in a warm room then he can’t make rational decisions,”
Holden said, adding, “Obviously it’s the wrong decision to pick being
outside in 20 degree weather.”
But Lopez said Pawel has had bad experiences in shelters.
feel that it’s safer to be on the street and they wanted to be
connected locally to their communities and I think that’s one of the
reasons he stays,” Lopez said.
The reverend believes the city needs to improve its shelter system.
“Can you imagine choosing to live on the streets of New York City in January over a shelter because it’s unsafe?” Lopez said.
CB 5 Chairman Vinny Arcuri said Pawel told him “he’s just waiting to die.”