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Sunset Park Residents Denounce Drugs in Schoolyards, Call for Better Homeless Services

A group of Sunset Park residents came together Saturday to call for an end to drug use and crime near schoolyards that they say come from nearby homeless shelters.

Representatives of the Village of Sunset Park took to a hotel the city converted into a homeless shelter at 247 49th St. to send their message. The hotel is one of several shelters that have opened in the neighborhood without the community being given an opportunity for input, Ray Acevedo, president of the advocacy group, said.

Acevedo, 62, said because of the shelters, hypodermic needles are frequently found in schoolyards and residents of the shelters have been spotted doing drugs nearby during school hours. P.S. 1 and the Pena Herrera Playground are blocks away from the shelter.

“But our main concern above that is that they’re not receiving the services that they need to receive to get back on their feet,” Acevedo said. “This is not right. People need services, they need education, they need drug programs and then we need to protect our kids from these hypodermic needles that are being left in the schoolyards.”

The de Blasio administration relies on the emergency-based hotel shelter system in a years-long process to open 90 new shelters with supportive services across the city.

Leslie Carrion, 45, volunteers at two shelters in Sunset Park where she says homeless women are not receiving proper services to advance in society and often come out of shelters in a worse mental state because of the harsh environments and the stigma of living in a shelter.

Acevedo and neighborhood local Richard Davilla proposed allocating some of the money the city is spending on the hotel shelters to renovate low-cost apartments to help move homeless people into permanent living situations.

“The whole problem is just not these people being here. They’re here, we have to accept them, but they need some help,” Davilla said. “You can dump people anywhere but if you don’t help them, you’re not doing anything for them.”

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