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As Winter Nears, Gearing Up to Help the Homeless

With the cold weather drawing close, the authorities in Bay Ridge are stepping up their response to homeless individuals living in the neighborhood.

“We are trying to reach out before winter,” explained Josephine Beckmann, the district manager of Community Board 10, who said that the board office has received reports of homeless individuals being sighted, “On Third Avenue and Fourth Avenue, in the 90s, mostly because it’s the end of the R line,” as well as along the Gowanus Expressway, particularly near the overpasses at 72nd, 79th and 86th Streets.

The question was also “posed” at a “recent merchants meeting,” Beckmann said.

“People in Bay Ridge are very compassionate,” noted Beckmann, who said that callers expressed concern about how the homeless individuals would fare.

In response, Beckmann said, the board had reached out to the 68th Precinct, as well as to the organizations which do outreach in the area. In addition, she said, to deal with homeless individuals who had cut through the fence along the Gowanus at Seventh Avenue, to set up camp where there are “warm spots,” the board office had contacted the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), which had repaired the fence.

The precinct watches out for homeless people all year long, said Captain James Grant, the executive officer, doing “periodic inspections once a week,” and offering shelter to any homeless person they encounter. But, he stressed, “We can’t force them to accept it.” Thus, they, “either accept shelter or get up and go on their way.”

In addition, Grant said, all the precinct’s officers keep an eye out for homeless people. If they see someone they believe is homeless, they make a note of the location, so that it will be included on the next inspection.

“Everybody’s on board and aware of the situation,” he stressed. “That’s a good thing. There used to be one officer assigned to it. Now, it’s kind of a team effort, so we hope to see a big improvement.”

Looking ahead, Grant said that, “Once the weather starts getting a little colder, we have something in place where we sweep the subway line.”

While homelessness is a “recurring issue,” he added, “We have come a long way with it. We are making strides, and we need to keep plugging away.”

For example, Grant pointed out that there had not been an issue with homeless people living under the Bay Ridge Towers -- a former hot spot -- for eight or nine months. And, he added, “We’ve seen an improvement along the Gowanus. It was pretty bad, but it’s been cleared up, and the last couple of weeks we haven’t really seen anything there.”

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