Levy vetoes latest plan to house homeless sex offenders

02/19/2011 10:01 AM |

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy last week vetoed the latest bill out of the county Legislature aimed at ridding the East End of two shelters for homeless sex offenders.

The bill, introduced by Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), would have compelled the county Department of Social Services to consider the proposal of a private shelter provider called Haven House/Bridges to house and oversee offenders in industrial areas throughout the county.

In his veto message, among other points, Mr. Levy called the bill inaccurate in its assertion that social services “desires” to use the Haven House/Bridges group as one of two sex offender housing vendors.

“It is, in fact, the continued desire of the Department of Social Services to utilize a voucher system, similar to the programs used in neighboring Nassau and Westchester counties without incident or controversy,” Mr. Levy wrote.

The Legislature last month fell three votes short of overriding another veto of a bill that would have compelled social services to hire a company called Community Housing Innovations, or CHI. Mr. Levy vetoed the bill on the CHI plan because it would involve keeping the shelter locations secret until they were up and running to avoid outcry and political pressure from communities.

Mr. Schneiderman has said he’s confident he has the votes to override the latest veto, which only asks that the county consider the proposal — not accept it. The Haven House/Bridges was previously disqualified in its response from the county for a request for proposals, or RFP, because of permitting technicalities and because it failed to meet a deadline.

The current shelters, which are construction trailers with no running water, are located in Riverside and Westhampton Beach. Both locations are in Mr. Schneiderman’s district.

Mr. Schneiderman told the News-Review earlier this month that if neither of the alternative proposals is implemented and social services keeps putting the offenders up each night in the trailers, he would consider suing the county.

The county executive and the legislators claim they want to end the current trailer program, but have supported different approaches. Mr. Levy backs a voucher system through which homeless offenders would receive up to $90 per day to find their own housing in motels. The Legislature voted against a voucher system last year.

“The simple solution to the problem remains as follows,” Mr. Levy concluded in his veto message, “Reinstate the voucher system, whereupon we will close the trailers and save money by no longer having to transport homeless sex offenders such great distances.”

The state mandates that all counties offer housing to homeless people, including sex offenders.

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