A dispute over a homeless shelter in Elmhurst, Queens got extremely ugly on Monday night. DNAinfo reports that Community Board 4 called a meeting for neighborhood residents, officials from the Department of Homeless Services, and employees of Samaritan Village, which recently started operating out of the Pan American Hotel on Queens Boulevard. A number of locals are upset that the DHS turned the former hostel into a temporary home for 90 families without informing them beforehand. Meanwhile, the DHS blamed the quick, quiet transformation on, as assistant commissioner Lisa Black put it, “a crisis situation where we have more families coming in than we have families exiting.”
In addition to expressing anger about being made to participate in “a public hearing after the fact,” Elmhurst residents said that they were worried that the shelter would bring crime and overwhelm already-crowded public schools. According to DNAinfo, a woman who urged attendees to have some compassion for those experiencing a period of bad luck was “booed” and “told to sit down,” but the really disheartening stuff happened outside the meeting, where “hundreds” of protesters — many of whom brought their children — gathered to shout “shame on you,” “get a job,” and “pay your rent” at around 20 homeless people who are now living in the hotel.
The lesson: Regardless of their legitimacy, a person’s concerns about conditions in their community seem much less sympathetic once they outfit their kid with a sign reading, “2, 4, 6, 8, who do we NOT appreciate, hobos hobos hobos.”