BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), who is the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), has announced legislation to ensure that communities across the state are notified in advance when a hotel is being used to house homeless people or a hotel shelter will become a permanent community fixture.
The bill follows Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent speech on tackling the homelessness crisis in the five boroughs.
“Since hotel-to-homeless shelter conversions began popping up in my district, I urged Mayor Bill de Blasio and his Department of Homeless Services to implement a process to notify affected communities throughout the city as well as to seek their input,” said state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst). “Under the mayor’s new plan to combat the homelessness crisis, he again ignores common sense proposals, offering only vague notions of engaging communities and their elected officials. This is inadequate. The concerns of my constituents have been continuously neglected by the administration and I am proud to now offer this legislation with my colleagues that will bring about a real solution to this ongoing problem.”
Currently, communities are informed 30 days prior to the opening of a permanent shelter, but under the new legislation, communities would be notified 45 days prior and given the opportunity to provide input. Temporary homeless shelters would require only one week prior notice.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said that this legislation would add accountability to the process and ensure that communities are kept up-to-date on where homeless people were being housed in their neighborhoods.
Not only would the legislation require the Department of Homeless Services to perform inspections at community shelters to ensure that they are safe and free of violations, but the agency would be forced to provide a publicly available list of their sites and conduct quarterly reports on the use or proposed use of the sites that would be submitted to local elected officials.
“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 state Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. (D-Queens). “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 IDC released a report in January that listed the conditions of cluster and hotel sites that have been used to house homeless families in the city. Some of the worst offenders had violations such as rodent infestations, mold, lead paint, unlawful cooking areas and failure to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
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