Community wants subway station 'homeless shelter' cleaned up

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THE BRONX -

Community members say the Pelham Bay Park subway station has turned into a makeshift shelter for the homeless and that they want the city to come up with a solution.

Anyone who frequents the station is likely to see several people basically living there, with at least one family keeping their belongings packed against the wall.

The city Department of Homeless Services says its outreach teams canvas the area more than three times a day, trying to encourage at least nine homeless people they have identified to accept services. DHS says acceptance of the services is voluntary and that the city cannot force people living on the streets to move unless they are posing a danger.

The city, however, uses a careful approach in such situations. DHS says it has highly trained staff members who try to gain the trust of the homeless so they can address the underlying issues that may have put them on the streets.

Last year, DHS says outreach teams helped 748 homeless New Yorkers citywide get off the streets. The agency also says those teams recently placed 12 homeless people from the area into transitional or permanent housing. Those at the Pelham Bay Park station are not part of those numbers.

"We want the Department of Homeless Services and the MTA to come to the table and resolve this once and for all," says City Councilman James Vacca, of the Bronx. "We're not helping the two individuals who are living there by leaving them there."

The neighborhood's community board says in a statement: "Our staff reached out to BronxWorks and the 45th Precinct. BronxWorks visited the site and is actively working to secure housing for the individuals."

"Together, we remain undeterred in our efforts to engage clients proactively until we make the connection that will help them transition off the streets," DHS said in a statement.

The MTA tells News 12 that it's not its responsibility since the people are technically living outside the station.

DHS says in addition to enhancing its street outreach efforts, the city has brought in 350 beds dedicated to serving homeless New Yorkers and will be adding another 360 by the end of the year. The first 500 units of the mayor's 15,000-unit supportive housing plan will also be implemented this year.

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