Residents of the shelter spoke at September’s Board meeting about a search that was conducted at the premises. The search was undertaken as a means to identify drug abusers, who would then be removed from the shelter, but some residents described the search as a raid that involved a strong police presence and careless, if not violent, treatment of the veterans and their belongings over a four-hour period.
According to DHS representative Mary Wilson Hall, who oversaw the searches alongside shelter staff and members of the NYPD, the incident was part of the effort to change the character of the shelter by its new management company, ICL.
“As a provider of services to this facility, ICL has made efforts to change the culture of the Borden Avenue veteran’s shelter to one of respect,” said Hall. “We all are concerned about the abuse of drugs at the shelter, and ICL said that drugs are coming in, so we conducted a locker search.”
As the shelter is owned by the city, it is their right to conduct searches whenever DHS deems it necessary. Residents of New York City shelters sign forms that allow for random searches before they are permitted to enter.
At the search in question, residents were present the entire time, and Hall said that every effort was made to respect the residents’ personal space. During the search, which Hall said lasted no more than an hour and a half, several arrests for possession of drugs were made, and two complaints were filed by residents against the DHS regarding broken property.
“We understand that some of the residents felt violated, but there is a real change of culture going on there,” said Hall. “There are a number of people that have been at that shelter for far too long. It’s meant to be short-term housing.”
Responding to rumors of abuse, Wilson said that under no circumstances would any residents there be physically harmed.
Community Board Chairman Joe Conley sad that the shelter had been very quiet since the inspection, indicating a positive change in management, but said that the community board would like to establish a stronger relationship with ICL and DHS.