When Mike Bloomberg left office at the end of last year, the homeless population had peaked at more than 52,000 — the highest number since the Great Depression.
Auburn Family Residence has been a shelter for families with children since 1985. Families have their own rooms, but there is no kitchen and each floor had a communal bathroom.
Lisa Black, assistant commissioner with the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), said the city received numerous complaints from people living there. Additionally, since parents are not allowed to leave their children alone in the room, whenever a child had to use the bathroom, everyone had to go.
“A lot of privacy is lost there,” she said. “We have to change the population there. We don’t want to lose that resource, but we want to improve it.”
Black said so far 40 families have been relocated to affordable housing or other shelters based on their needs, and everyone is being kept in their current school districts. By the end of June, Auburn will be for families with adult kids only.
The mayor’s preliminary budget directs $1.3 million in 2014 to improve the security and programming at both shelters. Funds for facility renovations at both sites are already included in the department's capital plan.
Renovations will also be taking place in the buildings, which could include a culinary arts teaching kitchen at Auburn. Black said they will be talking to elected officials and community board members for input.
“The educational continuity is extremely important for the community that we serve,” Black said.