IMPACT
04/07/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Kafkaesque Bureaucratic Rules Shut Down NY Homeless Shelter

With New York's homeless population rising above 37,000 and shelters working to increase capacity, closing a homeless shelter in the middle of winter doesn't seem a prudent move by city officials.

But that's exactly what the Bronx's Kingsbridge Heights Community Center was forced to do at the city's behest, the New York Times reports.

The ten beds inside the community center's gym turned the traditional "not-in-my-backyard fight" upside down. the neighborhood wanted the shelter, and the city wanted it shut, the paper reports.

Last spring, parks officials became aware of the overnight homeless program. They said that they were "legally obligated to discontinue it" because "land dedicated for park purposes cannot be conveyed or used for any other purpose," according to a statement from the parks department. A different city agency, the Department of Homeless Services, had been aware of the program and had been providing sheets and food for the homeless men... "It seems Kafkaesque, the bureaucratic rule," [G. Oliver Koppell, a Bronx councilman] said. "It's not an inappropriate place for homeless and it's been used that way for years. It seems foolish to bar this use."

Scott Auwarter, who runs the Bronx-based social services group, BronxWorks, said that as many as 55 people spend cold nights in chairs. The homeless shelter did not cost the city anything, the paper reported.

Read more at the New York Times.