Cuomo’s homeless order leaves little time to comply

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ALBANY – Local governments and police agencies won’t have much time to comply with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new homelessness mandate.

A wooded area near an underpass in Spring Valley where homeless men may be sleeping on June 16, 2015. (Photo: Ricky Flores/The Journal News)

A wooded area near an underpass in Spring Valley where homeless men may be sleeping on June 16, 2015. (Photo: Ricky Flores/The Journal News)

Cuomo’s executive order, which was issued Sunday and requires that homeless people are taken to shelters when the temperature drops below freezing, takes effect Tuesday, giving local social service agencies and shelters little time to come up with a plan.

Several local governments said they are waiting to hear more details about the order on a conference call with Cuomo’s administration this afternoon.

The order requires all local social-service and police agencies, as well as all state agencies, to “take all necessary steps” to identify homeless individuals who are unwilling or unable to find shelter in freezing weather and “move such individuals to the appropriate sheltered facilities.”

Local social service providers, meanwhile, are directed to “take all necessary steps to extend shelter hours.”

Dan Callan, a deacon at St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church in Rochester, said the order won’t have much immediate impact on the Rochester Emergency Action Committee for the Homeless, which operates a temporary shelter in a former church rectory on Prince Street. The shelter already operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said Callan, an operations volunteer at the facility.

He questioned where other shelters will get the resources to extend their hours and implement the governor’s order.

Cuomo’s order says the state will “assist local social services districts if they are lacking facilities, resources or expertise,” but it doesn’t lay out what that assistance may entail.

“I didn’t hear the governor offer any help from the state for these facilities to provide the personnel,” Callan said. “Hello? It takes staff to keep these facilities 24/7.”

In a statement Sunday, Cuomo’s counsel, Alphonso David, said the state “stands ready to provide resources to support those localities in need.”

“This order is only a part of the state’s response to the homeless crisis,” David said. “Within the next few weeks, the State will announce our full plan, including addressing (the) deficient shelter systems.”

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, a Cuomo ally, praised the governor for “taking action to support a very vulnerable population during the cold winter months.”

“Yonkers will be sure to support this executive order by working with local and state agencies to ensure the homeless are protected from the elements and are tended for with compassion and decency,” Spano said in a statement.

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