The Dwelling Place — a haven for women in Hell’s Kitchen for the past 46 years — closed its doors for good on July 12, joining Centro Maria and Webster Apartments as the third women’s residence in the area to shut down in recent years.
The Archdiocese of New York owns the building at 409 W40th Street (between 9th and Dyer Avenue). The Dwelling Place had been funded by private donations and was one of the last remaining women’s residences in Manhattan. In a statement on their website, the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany and the Archdiocese said that the “decision to close indefinitely stems from financial constraints and staffing challenges.”
The transitional shelter served about 3,000 women in its 46 years. On average, residents stayed for six months. The women were served breakfast and dinner and required to be out of the shelter in-between meals for work or to receive help to regain their stability. It also operated as a soup kitchen and food distribution center on Wednesday evenings.
The Dwelling Place opened after four Franciscan Sisters who worked as nurses witnessed the plight of homeless women roaming the Port Authority building on W42nd Street. After receiving permission from their congregation, in 1977, they began to use the former convent of St Clement Mary Hofbauer parish as a transitional shelter for women.
Their mission was to “live out the Gospel in a tangible way by providing for homeless women a roof, a hot meal, a warm bed, a chance to shower and change clothing or shopping bags, personal contact with people, a relief from the streets and acceptance as someone loved by God through His people.”
Sister Margaret Magee, Congregational Minister, said in a statement, “The presence and ministry of the Dwelling Place throughout the years has been a significant blessing to women in need. We are grateful to the many faithful volunteers, staff, board members, donors and sisters who have served with joy and hope. We pray for the Spirit’s guidance in the work needed at this time.”
The Dwelling Place briefly closed at the start of the pandemic before reopening in January 2021. Deborah Pollock was appointed as Executive Director during the pandemic shutdown. In a statement, the Archdiocese said: “The employment of former administrator of The Dwelling Place, Deborah Pollock, ended June 12, 2023. Ms Pollock is not authorized to make decisions or solicit money or services under the name of The Dwelling Place of NY, Inc.” W42ST asked for further details from Franciscan Sisters of Allegany and the Archdiocese about Ms Pollock’s employment but have not received more information at the time of publication.
Council Member Erik Bottcher, who attended The Dwelling Place’s Gala event in May this year, told us via email: “It’s deeply troubling that the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany would move to pull out of The Dwelling Place without making a concerted effort to ensure that the services provided there can continue, even with another nonprofit operator. My colleagues and I are working to facilitate a plan for this site so it continues to offer vital housing for homeless women. Until then, its services should continue uninterrupted.”
Its closure follows in the wake of two other women’s shelters closing or relocating from Hell’s Kitchen. The Webster Apartments — which offered women significantly below-market rate rent and two hot meals a day — moved to FOUND Study Midtown East at 569 Lexington Ave earlier this year. Located on 419 W34th Street (just west of 9th Avenue) the original building gave a home to thousands of young women who needed affordable housing for over a century. The Webster Apartments were sold for $52.5 million to Educational Housing Services, a not-for-profit organization.
Centro Maria, a large boarding house located on W54th Street that offered tenants shelter, two meals a day, and served as a safe haven for women for decades, was forced to close three years ago. The Archdiocese told Centro Maria leadership that the sale was needed to raise funds to pay for hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits. The building was demolished and is set to become a 21-floor, 71-unit luxury apartment building.