With Mayor Bill de Blasio vowing to bring homeless shelters to areas in Queens that currently do not have any, many of the borough’s lawmakers want to make sure that the process of opening shelters is transparent, and involves the communities affected.
Before the legislative session ended in June, the state Senate passed S.4802, co-sponsored by state Senators Joseph Addabbo of Howard Beach, Tony Avella of Bayside, Jose Peralta of Jackson Heights, and others, which would ensure that residents are better informed and consulted about the siting of homeless shelters — both temporary and permanent — in their neighborhoods.
“This proposal will guarantee transparency and a desperately needed public exchange when the city is choosing locations for shelters,” Addabbo said. “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.”
The bill would allow communities greater involvement in the process of the placing of shelters compared to the original guidelines presented by the mayor’s office earlier this year. The legislation would give communities 45 days notification before hearings are held on the siting of permanent shelters by the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, instead of the original 30 days.
This new legislation would also allow community boards to request public hearings on a shelter, and the city Department of Homeless Services (DHS) would then be required to adjust their proposals based on reasonable concerns expressed by community and board members.
When it comes to temporary shelters, S.4802 requires the city to notify the community one week in advance of their plan to use a hotel or motel as a shelter site. DHS would have to perform inspections to make sure these sites are safe and free of any violations, and maintain public availability of these sites.
The proposal would also require DHS to provide a quarterly report on the use and proposed use of these sites to local elected officials, and would allow for a 48-hour post-placement notification of homeless residents at a hotel or motel in the case of an emergency weather 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,” Addabbo said. “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 bill is under review in the state Assembly Committee on Cities.