Dinkins' Shelter Plan under Fire HOUSING THE HOMELESS

Article excerpt

THE firestorm of protests that met New York Mayor David Dinkins's proposal of a new concept for housing the homeless is still crackling two months later.

Neighborhood, elected officials and even homeless advocates have differing objections to the $200 million five-year-plan for building 24 small, transitional shelter and treatment centers around the city.

Almost everyone insists that the plan must be radically changed. That includes even Andrew Cuomo who heads a mayoral commission on homelessness due to make a broad report on the subject in January. He termed the plan "dead on arrival."

Final approval of the plan is up to the City Council, which has been holding informal hearings.

"This plan will not pass this Council - it isn't going to fly," insists Council spokeswoman Peg Breen. Lack of specifics

Ms. Breen says the mayor's plan, by listing 35 potential sites scattered around the city but giving no specifics about annual operating costs or types of programs offered, approaches the problem backwards.

"The plan was guaranteed to build up opposition," she says. "It isn't surprising that people were upset and scared."

Many of the potential sites are in stable, middle-class neighborhoods. Mayor Dinkins said he was obliged under the new City Charter approved by voters to distribute equitably the burdens and benefits of city facilities. Many poorer neighborhoods already have a high proportion of similar projects.

Some of the plan's critics say commercial-industrial areas were left out of the formula and should be considered since they are often nearer transportation, jobs, and other services.

Some advocates for the homeless would prefer to revamp other facets of the plan. They say racism and stereotyping of the homeless are behind much of this opposition.

"We want to deal seriously with the concerns of the community rather than just having this blanket kind of rejection," says Anne Teicher, co-director of the Mayor's Office on Homelessness and Single Room Occupancy Housing.

"The problem is that there's been so much misunderstanding about the program that people's perception of the impact is that it will be much more negative than we believe it will be," Ms. …