In an effort to make sure that local residents are better informed and consulted about the siting of homeless shelters, NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. joined with his Senate colleagues in passing legislation (S.4802) to improve community notification and involvement when permanent or temporary facilities are being located throughout the City.
Noting that he is a co-sponsor of the bill, Addabbo said, “This proposal will guarantee transparency and a desperately needed public exchange when the City is choosing locations for shelters. Specifically, it requires advance notification to local officials and community boards when hotels and motels are being eyed for use as homeless shelters. In addition, the legislation would expand the review and community input process for permanent shelters housing homeless individuals and families.”
Under the plan, 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 local community boards to request public hearings on a shelter. The city Department of Homeless Services (DHS) would then be required to modify proposals based on reasonable concerns expressed at such hearings.
With regard to temporary shelters, 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.
“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,” said Addabbo. “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.”
Having passed the Senate, the bill was under review by the Assembly Committee on Cities.