Five sites across Suffolk County have been presented as potential spots for new, smaller regional shelters for homeless sex offenders, according to a county official, but their exact locations are not being disclosed just yet.
A government source told the News-Review there would likely be no more than five shelters countywide, with only one on the East End, and that the East End location likely would not be in the Riverhead or Riverside, an area that has played host to all the county’s homeless sex offenders for the past four years.
The shelters, which would house no more than six offenders each, are planned as an alternative to the county’s current plan of placing its homeless sex offenders in two East End trailers, one on the county jail property in Riverside and another in Westhampton. The program has been criticized as unfair by East End residents and officials. The change to that program is required by county legislation approved earlier this year.
Legislators and representatives of the county’s Department of Social Services met Monday on this issue.
“The meeting was held, as mandated by the legislative resolution,” said Social Services spokesman Roland Hampson. “The legislators and their providers have presented five potential sites that the legislators will disclose when they reach their final decision.”
He said there could be more than those five sites. The county Legislature passed a resolution earlier this year mandating that no more than six offenders be located in each shelter, and that there be no more than one shelter per town or legislative district.
Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), who represents the North Fork, said Wednesday, “This isn’t going to be done overnight.”
Mr. Romaine said two contractors the county selected to build and operate the shelters have many concerns that he felt were “legitimate issues.” For instance, will they be paid per bed, per shelter or per homeless sex offender served? If it’s the latter, there could be times when many shelter beds are empty — only about 28 people are housed in the trailers now — and they wouldn’t be paid anything. Mr. Romaine said the county is still working on developing a contract with the two companies, which could take two to three months.
“I’m hoping they will be open by the fall,” Mr. Romaine said of the new facilities. “I look forward to the day when the trailers are gone.”
Mr. Romaine said the shelter sites are not exempt from local zoning, which may prohibit such housing in certain areas, so the county is looking at state and county land as possible locations. The shelters are not permitted in residential areas, according to the resolution authorizing them.
Mr. Romaine said he believes the county will announce the locations of all the shelters at the same time.