The mental health crisis in East New York, Brooklyn, is of growing concern

random attacks. Record the number of homeless. Lack of services. The outward signs of a worsening mental health crisis are growing in New York City.

But few places have to coexist with it as closely as eastern New York.

The borough of Brooklyn, which leads the city in the most serious crime categories, experiences high numbers of mental health emergencies. The rate of psychiatric hospitalization for adults in eastern New York is more than double the citywide rate, according to health department data.

The response—from community, local officials, and advocates—underscores the complexity of the issue not just in eastern New York, but across the city.

Corner of Euclid Street and Pitkin Street in East New York.  The borough of Brooklyn, which leads the city in the most serious crime categories, experiences high numbers of mental health emergencies.

As advocates and officials, often at odds, debate solutions and call for new funding, residents say the streets are becoming increasingly unsafe as they face the daily reality of overlapping crises: mental health, homelessness and addiction.

Children can no longer play on certain playgrounds. Seniors take Ubers instead of walking to avoid some corners. Residents often feel that there are times when they have to cross the streets to avoid visibly disturbed people.

“They have to take people off the streets, so they’re not in the park, on the sidewalk. Take good care of the shelters,” said Kyle Theodore, 22, who grew up in eastern New York. “Or they could have a set of stricter rules that they follow. “

As the problem worsens, there is tension between local government officials and advocates, who shift blame to others as they struggle to find solutions.

Local government officials say the oversaturation of services in the area makes some problems inevitable. In the absence of viable permanent housing solutions, they cite more than a dozen shelters, overruns of public spaces, and 911 mental health calls as examples of an unfair response to a mental health crisis.

The core of the problem, says Charles Barron, a longtime city council representative for the 42nd District, which includes eastern New York, is the oversaturation of homeless shelters that dump the city’s most vulnerable into an already impoverished neighborhood. Eastern New York, he said, lacks resources for its current residents, not to mention anything else.

“I’m not saying no in my backyard. I’m saying our backyards are already full,” Barron said. “Other backyards don’t hold their fair share of homeless shelters.”

The core of the problem, says Charles Barron, a longtime city council representative for the 42nd District, which includes eastern New York, is the oversaturation of homeless shelters that dump the city's most vulnerable into an already impoverished neighborhood.

A flood of supportive housing units could be to blame, says Melinda Perkins, director of Community District 5.

“From the complaints we are receiving, it appears that it may be an increase in this population, not only because of the supportive housing units, but also based on people who may be coming to the shelters and [the district]Perkins said.

“…we have this population that has increased because of the amount of developments that have taken place [the district]. And the fact that developers are getting bigger subsidies and more tax incentives for development to allow for that kind of housing, for those types of units to be part of their project.”

Perkins says the problem has increased since the pandemic.

“We have an increase in complaints about certain acts that are happening across the region, and when you hear that kind of incident, you relate it directly to some kind of mental challenge that might be going on with that person,” Perkins said.

“Something has to happen so we don’t just escalate,” she said.

Advocates see the problem differently. They view mental illness as a citywide epidemic-widening problem, not just one that the city dumped on them. And they need more services, both inside and outside the community, to fix it.

“We definitely need more supportive housing,” said Brian Moriarty, assistant vice president of behavioral health and senior housing programs for America-Greater New York.

Moriarty runs various programs in East New York, including East New York SRO, which is supportive residential housing. He said the program aims to establish some security for its residents.

“If we can achieve that stability, we can end the cycle of homelessness, and part of that is working on their mental health — connecting them to outside resources, whether that be a medical provider, a mental health provider for substance use providers, or just connecting them to a jobs program,” Moriarty said. .

There are not enough services or funding, said Pascale Larosellere, director of programs at Good Shepherd Services, a youth development and family service agency.

“The existing support services are getting really weak,” said Larosiliere. “…many of the mental health providers that are in Eastern New York, I think it would be helpful if there were some opportunities to expand so they could cover more areas in Eastern New York or so they could extend their hours or have the teams actually go out to communities, collecting votes and providing support to people.”

“Here in our community, we always kind of talk about support services that are out there and this whole idea of ​​gender norms, like, ‘Yeah, the homeless, mental health, people need support, but not here, not the neighborhood.'” And I think New Yorkers really need to Rethink this a bit.”

NYPD officers and detectives are investigating a shooting at the Deli on Linden Blvd.  Near Fountain Ave.  In East New York, Brooklyn, Wednesday, July 27, 2022.

Whatever the reason, eastern New Yorkers say they increasingly don’t like what they see on the streets. They are not sure if the root of the problem is mental illness, homelessness, or addiction. On a ground level, it is often difficult to know where one problem ends and another begins.

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Charmaine, 30, works at a daycare across the street from a playground where she said she often sees people peeing, exposing themselves, doing hard drugs and muttering to themselves.

It causes a problem where when they come here the kids can’t use the parks because of the homeless shelter. People go to the parks because apparently when they let them out in the morning, they can’t come back until late afternoon, which affects us because we can’t let the kids out to play in the playground. “We’re trying to keep them safe within these walls,” Charmaine said.

Malik Smith, 20, grew up in eastern New York. He says the neighborhood has gotten worse over the past few years.

“This area has collapsed and looks crazy now,” said Smith. “It doesn’t look like it used to. That’s a fact.”

“I think there are at least a lot of homeless people, a lot of immigrants, a lot of people walking around here, without a job, not knowing what to do, but it affects the community,” Teodoso Paez, 72, who lives in eastern New York and works in a convenience store Deli in the neighborhood, in Spanish. “It’s a confusing problem, not just locally, but globally.”

Police are investigating after the shooting of a woman on Georgia and Belmont Streets in East New York, Brooklyn, on Tuesday, October 12, 2021.

Larry Patterson, 40, said he sees a lot of poverty and homelessness on a daily basis. But he is sympathetic to what many are facing. He knows that with a quick change of circumstances, he could be in a similar situation.

If I lose my job and stop paying rent, how do I know I won’t be in the same position? … If I should be in a situation now where I am no longer working or unable to support myself, that is where I will see myself as homeless, depressed, and overworked.”

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