The Hope for Youth family services organization opened an emergency youth shelter on Tuesday morning in Suffolk County to help address the growing number of runaway and homeless children on Long Island. According to the state’s Office of Children and Family Services, there are over 2,400 runaway and homeless children on Long Island, with most of them from Suffolk. For the past 2 years, the only shelter serving all of Long Island’s homeless children has been a 12-bed shelter called Nassau Haven.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone was on hand to cut the ribbon and offered these words.
“This first shelter is important… it is going to help kids in crisis, young people who are the responsibility of us all, to stabilize and hopefully deal with the issues that led them out of there homes in the first place… This home represents our effort as a community to say, ‘We take responsibility for our young people and we’re going to work to address the issues… not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do.’” Bellone further added, “If you take a look at the home and you go inside, it really is a home. It really feels like a home for these kids.”
Read the full press release here.
New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a report this week on Homelessness in New York State after conducting reviews of homeless shelters in many New York counties- Suffolk and Nassau included. Below is the statement from the Comptroller and link to this report.
Homelessness is a growing problem affecting communities in virtually every corner of New York State.
Despite our best efforts, there continue to be run-down—and sometimes even squalid—shelters that pose a real danger to the health and safety of families and individuals that have nowhere else to go.Working with the comptrollers from Albany, Dutchess, Nassau, Onondaga, Suffolk and Ulster counties, we conducted an independent review of homeless shelters across New York, visiting 200 emergency shelters and 187 hotel/motels.
One in five of those were in poor condition. Shelters contained mold, unsanitary restrooms and vermin. Many had fire safety issues such as a lack of smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. In others we found unlockable doors and crumbling staircases.
It is clear that greater action is needed to ensure that all homeless shelter facilities provide safe accommodations for some of New York’s most vulnerable residents. Our work on this important issue continues with more audits and reports to come.
We need to start fixing these problems immediately.
Read my report and recommendations, Homeless Shelters and Homelessness in New York State, at: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093016/16d3.pdf
A recent report from Empire Justice Center explores the connections between inadequate public assistance shelter and fuel allowances and homelessness. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development reports that between 2013 and 2014, New York experienced the largest increase in homelessness of any state in the nation. The report suggests a link between the continued rise in the number of homeless families and the insufficient housing allowances given to families receiving public assistance.
Shelter allowances have not been increased since 2003 for families with children and for single adults or childless couples, shelter allowances are based on levels unchanged since 1988. According to HUD, Fair Market Rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in Nassau County is $1,249 per month. The public assistance shelter allowance for a family of 3 in Nassau is only $445 per month which only covers about 35% of the rental expenses, leaving families to come up with the difference, find other housing, or face eviction. Increasing the shelter allowances to keep families in their homes is more cost effective than providing shelter for a homeless family, especially during prolonged periods of homelessness
In addition to lower than adequate shelter amounts, for those responsible for paying heating costs not included in their rent, fuel allowances have not changed since 1987. Oil prices are currently double what they were in 1990 and at one point reached triple that amount. Natural gas has also nearly doubled since 1990. While programs such as HEAP can provide some additional support, many households may still need additional resources to make it through the winter months.
The report calls for an increase in shelter allowances to 50 percent of fair market rents and an increase in heating allowances that are also proportionate to market rates. Empire Justice Center recommends these rates be examined more regularly so allowances can be updates as necessary.