New York – An emergency shelter for homeless people in the Bronx is in disarray after an overnight fire caused its roof to collapse, leaving it without water and electricity for hours, the New York Times reports.
The building on New Jersey Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets has been closed since Monday evening, and the New Jersey Department of Homeless Services says the roof has not been repaired.
The building’s owners are not cooperating with the department.
In a statement to the Times, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development said, “The building is being inspected for structural problems, and we expect the roof to be repaired as soon as possible.”
The shelter has had to find new places to sleep.
Many of the people who have been staying there say they are sleeping in vehicles parked in the parking lot, which is the only space available.
The Times also reports that the building’s owner, the city-owned Community Development Corporation, has not returned phone calls from the Times.
In an interview with the New Yorker magazine, the shelter’s manager, John J. Fogg, described what he called the “devastating situation” and said the building was the only place they could find housing.
Fogg said the homeless population has exploded in recent years, as New York has grown and the city grapples with a rise in violent crime.
The homeless population in the city has risen from about 200,000 in 1990 to more than 400,000 today, according to the New America Foundation, a nonprofit group that tracks homelessness.
The city’s homeless population is increasing exponentially.
In 2012, there were more than 13,000 homeless people living in New York, according a recent report from the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Fagg said that number rose to about 50,000 last year.
“I can imagine what that’s like,” he said.
The shelter was built in 1985 to help the homeless find permanent housing.
A new building was built to replace the one that collapsed, and Fogg said it is the same building now.
“We’re building two buildings and it’s the same,” he told the Times when asked how many people there are now.
The fire began in the basement of the building, but authorities say it was caused by smoke inhalation.
The blaze caused water to leak, and fire crews are working to get water and heat back into the building.
The blaze has left the shelter without water for hours and displaced at least 100 people.