A Brooklyn-based nonprofit has racked up nearly 300 open violations at five different homeless shelters across the borough — and it runs all five of the “cluster sites” with the most violations in Brooklyn, according to the most recent city-released statistics.
Core Services Group Inc. operates 40 “emergency or transitional housing settings,” providing “critical services” to at least 3,000 people, according to the organization’s website. The nonprofit runs at least 20 shelters and cluster sites in New York City and provides at least 800 beds of emergency, transitional and shelter-based housing, according to the city. It also operates shelters in Washington D.C.
Cluster sites are temporary apartments that house people experiencing homelessness in privately owned buildings. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced first in 2016 that he planned on getting rid of cluster sites as one of the options the city uses to house the homeless by 2019, partially due to the “bad conditions” of many of the sites. At the time there were 3,000 units of cluster site housing.
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“That number of violations in units is not acceptable,” said Councilmember Stephen Levin, who chairs the Committee on General Welfare, on Monday.
The City Council held an oversight hearing on Monday regarding the Department of Homeless Services and its contracts with nonprofit groups running some of the city’s shelters.
“In Brooklyn, it appears Core Services Group is running cluster sites that typically have more violations than shelters. Today, [the Department of Homeless Services] reiterated that these cluster sites will be phased out over the next two years at which point we hope to see fewer violations,” Councilmember Ben Kallos told the Brooklyn Eagle at the hearing. “DHS and the city need to stay on top of these providers making sure violations are handled and that conditions are suitable for New Yorkers.”
There were nearly 49,000 people staying in the city’s shelter system as of Sunday.
Molly Park, the first deputy commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services, said at the hearing that the city plans on closing all cluster sites by 2021.
Core Services Group does not operate the cluster sites with the most open violations in the city — the 12 sites with the most violations are all in the Bronx, including one site, run by nonprofit group Aguila, that has racked up a whopping 197 open violations.
Core Services Group also operates homeless shelters in the city — and is slated to operate the shelter in Queens that has elicited anti-homeless rhetoric in the borough. It also operates a shelter in Washington Heights where a man’s decaying body was found weeks after his death.
Kallos, who chairs the Committee on Contracts, asked DHS brass Monday if the city is stuck with vendors who struggle to run sites without violations.
“Why do certain providers who consistently have violations … still see DHS continue to award or renew contracts? For example, Acacia currently has 1,184 open violations. Are we as a city stuck with specific vendors?” he asked. (Acacia Network Housing Inc., a Bronx-based nonprofit, is currently being probed by the Department of Investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal.)
Park responded that most open violations occur in cluster sites and not in other types of homeless shelters, like commercial hotels where the city houses people experiencing homelessness.
While DHS plans on closing down all the cluster sites by 2021, Kallos hopes the city will focus on first shutting down the sites run by providers like Core Services Group with high numbers of open violations.
Core Services Group declined to comment and referred all questions about the cluster sites they operate back to DHS.
DHS did not immediately respond to requests for comment on how much money the city contracts to Core Services Group.