Sen. Addabbo noted that the bill is an effort to make sure that local residents are better informed and consulted about the siting of homeless shelters, such as this Comfort Inn in Ozone Park.
By Michael V. Cusenza
The State Senate recently passed legislation to improve community notification and involvement when permanent or temporary homeless shelter facilities are being located throughout the five boroughs, Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach), a co-sponsor of the measure, announced on Monday.
Under the plan, Addabbo noted, communities would have greater involvement in the placement of shelters when compared to the guidelines announced earlier this year by the Mayor’s Office. For example, the legislation would give communities 45 days notification – instead of 30 days – before hearings are held on the siting of permanent shelters by the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services. The bill would also enable community boards to request public hearings on a shelter. The City Department of Homeless Services would then be required to modify proposals based on “reasonable concerns” expressed at such hearings.
With regard to temporary shelters, Addabbo said the proposal requires community notification one week from the City’s use of the hotel or motel as a shelter. DHS would also be mandated to perform inspections to ensure sites are safe and free of violations and maintain a publicly available list of these sites. In addition, the bill requires that a quarterly DHS report on the use and proposed use of these sites be submitted to local elected officials. In light of the fact that hotels and motels are often used for weather-related emergencies affecting the homeless, the legislation allows for 48-hour post-placement notification in the event of an emergency situation.
In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled what he has characterized as a “comprehensive borough-based plan to reduce the footprint of New York City’s homeless shelter system and drive down the population of homeless New Yorkers relying on shelter.”
Titled “Turning the Tide on Homelessness, Neighborhood by Neighborhood,” the 114-page vision to address the homelessness crisis outlines the timing and logistics of ending the use of 360 cluster sites and commercial hotel facilities. The plan calls for completely eliminating the use of cluster apartment units by the end of 2021 and commercial hotel facilities by the end of 2023; and reducing the current number of shelter sites by 45 percent.
Replacing the sites will be 90 traditional shelters distributed across the five boroughs. According to the administration, the new network will be able to more effectively house the homeless near the communities, jobs, school, houses of worship and support systems needed to help them get back on track.
“While I believe placing homeless individuals into hotels is a failing policy implemented by our mayor, his administration should inform the local elected officials and public when such action is taken. Good government demands open communication among community members, elected officials, service providers and other stakeholders in the face of difficult challenges, including our efforts to find effective solutions to housing the homeless,” Addabbo added. “If we are to provide the best possible housing and assistance for people who are in desperate need of shelter and services, notifying and working cooperatively with local communities is not only key, but absolutely necessary.”
The shelter siting transparency bill is now under review in the Assembly Committee on Cities.