DHS aims to shut down cluster housing by 2021

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THE BRONX -

The Department of Homeless Services says it plans to eliminate the controversial cluster housing system by 2021.

"We're opening a smaller number of high-quality, borough-based shelters," said DHS Commissioner Steven Banks. "People can remain close to their job, closer to children's schools, closer to health care."

Banks and Councilman Fernando Cabrera have proposed closing 15 clusters in the 14th Council District by the end of 2018. That's on top of eight that have already closed out of the initial 39. Overall, the borough had as many as 215, the most in the city. Brooklyn follows with 48.

"I am happy to announce that it is the beginning of the end," Cabrera said.

Cluster housing places homeless people in privately owned apartments. The program has faced opposition for years. Criticism intensified after a radiator accident in a Hunts Point cluster last year killed two toddlers.

Lisa Milhouse, who left her Brooklyn home with her two children after escaping a violent relationship, says she was placed in a cluster site that she remembers as "one of the worst places on Earth."

A cabinet there broke loose from the wall and almost landed on her 4-year-old, she says.

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