Pheffer Amato Introduces Notification Bill to Make the Department of Homeless Services Accountable to Communities

State Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato introduced a bill this past week requiring 45 days’ notice before homeless housing is placed in a community. The bill would require that elected officials and community boards be made aware of any plans, making sure that through community conversation, the overall impact can be lessened and that vital services required by the homeless are actually delivered.

“Bringing the community into the conversation can’t be avoided. There are so many things, from security to economics to evacuation, that need to be discussed,” said Pheffer Amato. “The City Administration’s policies have tried to hide and warehouse the homeless. While obviously we all commend getting them off the streets to sleep, hiding them and avoiding talking about them is not the answer.

“Homeless families were recently placed at the Comfort Inn in Ozone Park,” she continued. “Community leaders were not given a heads up. The Department of Homeless Services brought in a private security force, without checking in with the local police precinct. From a conversation we had with the hotel’s owner, it didn’t seem that job training or placement was being provided. It was just warehousing. That’s unacceptable, and it must end.”

This past week, Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato and other elected officials released a joint statement calling for an end to the DHS policy of spontaneous housing of homeless individuals and families in area hotels, with no notification of community leadership. “Mayor de Blasio’s failed policy of housing homeless families in hotels is simply unacceptable,” said the statement in part. “These types of shelters are not cost-effective, and do not offer any real services that actually help homeless families get back on their feet. To add insult to injury, the Administration did not notify any of the elected officials in the area that 50 families are being housed at the Comfort Inn in Ozone Park."

“Until communities are included in the conversation, people with complex needs will never get the consideration and planning they need,” said Pheffer Amato about her bill. “During my campaign, I heard from communities who had been shut out of the process, and I promised to make sure they would be let back in. This bill does that. The relationship between homeless people and communities should be established and thoughtful, not anxious and uncertain. Let’s bring this conversation into the open, and find a way forward that works for everyone, regardless of economic status.”