Residents in one Brooklyn neighborhood have been asking the city for help after an apparently homeless woman parked a pile of belongings that has grown to more than two car-lengths long and more than 6 feet tall.
The pile belonging to a woman who claimed to News 4 to be an immigration officer blocks a fire hydrant in front of St. Finbar Catholic Church at 20th Street and and Benson Avenue in Bath Beach. And it has become a constant topic of conversation and frustration to members of the neighborhood, who don’t know why the city hasn’t been able to clean up the mess.
But the city’s Department of Homeless Services said that getting the woman -- or any homeless New Yorker, for that matter -- to pare down is a delicate dance that requires hundreds of interactions.
"This client is the only known homeless individual in this specific area and is engaged multiple times daily by outreach teams," said Isaac McGinn, a Department of Homeless Services spokesman.
He added, "Clean-ups conducted with agency partners from NYPD and DSNY have been scheduled to address this matter multiple times, including today, but had to be rescheduled to reassess conditions in instances where the individual may have moved locations and to preserve prior progress made with this client, as it can take hundreds of contacts to build the trust that ultimately encourages an individual to transition indoors."
Still, the situation has been a sore subject for Bath Beach residents like Paul Pegan. He called the pile of trash bags, suitcases and carts a "major health issue" that has also become a fire hazard.
"We have wooden houses here," he said. "We need to access that fire hydrant."
The city says that outreach teams had scheduled four clean-ups with the woman, but she moved each time, forcing them to re-assess and reschedule.
And members of the community have also tried to help the woman. The Rev. Michael Gelfant said he offered her charity only to be kicked in the chest. He said when he tried to get help from the city, he went down a rabbit hole of agencies.
"All the city agencies that have resources to help," he said. "We've called them all, and no one has done anything."
The woman, for her part, said that she planned to move the items on Wednesday night.