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County Commissioner on Homeless Shelter: "Hauppauge Schools Not Overburdened"

Suffolk lawmakers tabled a resolution to end the county's contract with an area homeless shelter for the third time at a hearing on Monday.

Patch File Photo
Patch File Photo

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.

Maureen Ledden Rossi December 14, 2013 at 02:47 PM
Under McKinney-Vento Act - all 100 families would have the right to have their children bused back to their school of origin or attend the district in which they now reside (Hauppauge). This has the potential to be a financial nightmare for the district.
karen from East Northport December 15, 2013 at 10:40 AM
Shame on you NIMBY residents. These families have hit rock bottom for many different reasons. Why don't you as a community help them instead of shun them? They don't have a kitchen to cook for themselves ? I am sure there are enough contractors in your town who could volunteer their services to install one. It takes a village to raise a child, welcome them to your schools and willingly provide them the services and education they so rightfully deserve. Teach your children the act of giving and friendship. Do a toy drive for them. A food drive? Show kindness and compassion and you too shall be rewarded.

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