George Maragos, Nassau County comptroller, released an audit of the approximately $8 million annual County Homeless Shelter program run by the Department of Social Services (DSS) together with the Office of Housing and Community Development (OHCD).
During 2015, the county provided emergency housing to 896 individuals and 427 children in 27 private shelters and seven motels. The audit found that only one of the 27 shelters and none of the motels had been inspected during the three-year audit period (2012-14). One new shelter was approved without an initial inspection. Additionally, DSS/OHCD failed to confirm that the nonprofit shelters had filed their required IRS 990 report. They could also not produce required motel permits to operate a temporary residence and did not keep any logs of resident complaints. Federal Housing Quality Standards require annual inspections of homeless shelters and inspection of new shelters prior to approval.
“This program provides crucial services to the homeless and should not be neglected,” Maragos said. “The homeless turn to their government when they have nowhere else to turn and OHCD has an obligation to provide our needy with safe and clean temporary housing as entrusted by the taxpayers. The department needs to immediately follow through and inspect all homeless shelters.”
The audit was conducted based on complaints received, including a news report last winter which indicated that temperatures were found to be as low as 50 degrees inside a shelter.
The county pays the shelter providers predetermined daily rates to house families or individuals in accordance with New York State and county regulations. Shelter residents are required to sign in and out on a daily basis. When the shelters are at maximum capacity, particularly in the winter months, DSS can place the homeless clients in designated motels.