Residents at the emergency homeless shelter located at the former Pan American Hotel are being visited by unwanted guests that have been munching on trash left piled up behind the site, according to a published report.
Members of the community surrounding the homeless shelter, located at 7900 Queens Blvd., captured a pack of rats in the act of looking through the garbage for a meal on April 17, according to the NY Daily News.
Business owners and local residents reportedly say that the garbage, which at first was being put inside a dumpster, has since been piled up in the lot behind the hotel.
Along with the reports of the rats, residents of the homeless shelter said they have issues with cockroaches inside their apartments, which in some cases hold four to five people, the Daily News said.
The former Elmhurst hotel houses over 700 residents, made up of families, many of which have small children.
The city had previously been seeking approval for a five-year, $42 million contract with the nonprofit Samaritan Village Inc. to operate the location as a permanent shelter.
Officials from the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) told the Daily News that as of April 18, Samaritan Village “has been working with the community and is purchasing a garbage compactor that will address these garbage concerns.”
“We are currently working with Department of Sanitation (DSNY), which has provided the specs for the compactor and will provide containers with lids. The garbage will then be compacted. We hope to have this remedied as soon as possible,” the DHS said.
In the past, the shelter has also had a large number of violations such as failure to provide hot water or heat for days, reports of bed bugs, peeling of lead paint in one unit, and garbage left sitting in front of the entrance to the children’s play area, according to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
Last November, the grassroots organization Elmhurst United, which has been voicing its opposition to the shelter since day one, said the conditions at the site violate city laws.
The group claims the shelter violates the NYC Administrative Code, which states, “No homeless family shelter shall be established which does not provide a bathroom, a refrigerator and cooking facilities and an adequate sleeping area within each unit within the shelter and which otherwise complies with state and local laws.”
According to the organization, the site does not have kitchens in every unit, which was why initially DHS did not consider the site to be a “permanent family shelter.”