Local residents crowded the auditorium of the county legislature building for the third time at a hearing held on Monday calling for Suffolk County to end a contract they have with the provider of homeless shelter on the Hauppauge/Commack border.
Suffolk lawmakers again tabled the resolution, which will be heard again in January. Frustrated residents asked the committee to hold evening meetings in lieu of only morning meetings so that those who work can attend.
Officials are applying to have the shelter recognized as a Tier 2 shelter, which would allow them to house up to 100 families there. The shelter currently houses 96 families there and opponents have challenged lawmakers calling the facility a mega-shelter that is illegal and not proper housing for the homeless.
“It’s unfair to the people you are housing. I have seen… women with young kids crossing Motor Parkway. There is nowhere for them to cook. They are crossing in cold with strollers because you have not set up proper homes for them,” said Loretta Catalano, a 35 year Hauppauge resident.
Those in opposition say the Hauppauge community is overburdened and that they believe there is a disproportionate amount of homeless families in their area.
Suffolk County Social Services Commissioner John O'Neill told the committee that as of Nov. 25 there are 10 children from the shelter who attend school in Hauppauge. Countywide, O’Neil said there are 660 homeless school age children.
“In Hauppauge, that works out to one-and-a-half-percent,” he said.
That number was challenged by Legis. Thomas Barraga,(R- West Islip),
“On Oct. 28 you said there were 21 homeless children in the district and today you say it is ten. Seems rather extraordinary," said Barraga. O’Neil stood by the calculation and said the children had found permenancy elsewhere and some had moved out.
What may prove to be a compromise in the conflict is an idea floated by Bargara who asked O'Neil to work on “whittling down” the number of families that are housed there to “something more reasonable”
“Is there a possibility to house 60-70 at most? After you place them, you don’t put more back into the facility. Can we keep whittling down to a more reasonable figure? It seems out of whack for a given hamlet to absorb at one time.”
O’Neil said he would look to reduce numbers “at the appropriate time,” and cited winter as a time of year when more people need emergency housing.
"Right now is not the appropriate time,” said O’Neil who also said that the data doesn’t support overburdening for the Hauppauge school district.
Lawmakers voted to table the resolution except for Legis. Bargara who voted in favor of passing the resolution.