One of the few homeless shelters in New York City serving the Asian American community is facing closure after complaints from neighbors who complained to the city’s 311 line, reports City Limits.
City inspectors hit the Nanoom House with numerous building code violations in November and the shelter has been fighting closure ever since. Before then, it had housed 20-30 homeless people each night.
“Nanoom House has restored my faith and has given me purpose,” says Yu Sung Ju , an unemployed mentally ill restaurant worker who had been living on the streets of New York before finding the Nanoom House. “Here I don’t feel like a burden but I feel I can be of service. The people here have become my family.”
The shelter faces up to $95,000 in fines. A hearing is scheduled for March 10.
According to QNS, inspectors say Nanoom has three rooms on the second floor not permitted for single resident occupancy. They also say a bathroom in the basement has not been properly permitted.
The shelter now says the unpermitted rooms have now been removed and hopes to work with the city to resolve the issues. The shelter is run by Rev Jin Park and has the support of Flushing Assemblyman Ron Kim. Kim says Nanoom has made a good faith effort to fix the problems.
“If we don’t fix the larger problem of them being able to exist there without outsiders calling 311 on them, we’re going to continue to have a problem. So I think that’s the larger problem that we need to figure out how to resolve,” said Kim.
According to City Limits, the shelter operates solely on small donations and yard sales. Everyday its residents conduct household chores, sing hymns and eat together. It serves mostly Korean immigrants, many who face a language barrier.
“Some of the residents don’t like the [city’s] homeless shelter because they are scared,” said Rev. Park to City Limits. “Most of the residents are elders and don’t feel safe. At least here they can be with the same culture and we become like a family.”
Park opened the shelter in 2012 to house those displaced by Hurricane Sandy. He soon realized the need for the shelter extended beyond Sandy and kept it open.
“Our existence is very important for the Korean American community,” Park says. “People who are addicted, they came to the shelter and after our services, like anti-addiction seminars, they got free from addiction and got motivated to work. The average stay in our shelter is less than one year except for the really elderly.”
Asian American seniors in New York City have the second highest poverty rate in the city at 22 percent.
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