Plan to house sex offenders would keep sites secret

FILE - Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy at FILE - Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy at a press conference after a meeting with Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino to discuss regional and statewide issues that affect each county. (May 5, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

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The lone bidder to operate shelters for homeless sex offenders in Suffolk County may have found a new way to avoid the clamor associated with picking locations: Keep the sites secret.

The plan is the centerpiece of a White Plains company's response to Suffolk's request for proposals to develop ways to house about two dozen homeless sex offenders at sites throughout the county.

"Securing and occupying this site without advising the local community until after it is established is a critical component of this proposal," Community Housing Innovations Inc. wrote in its pitch to the county. "CHI will not be involved in any process that requires community approval prior to occupancy."

The CHI plan, which County Executive Steve Levy's Department of Social Services would have to accept, would house homeless sex offenders at four or more as-yet-undetermined sites in the county. It remains unclear what type of facilities CHI would use, though the proposal indicated it would seek locations in industrial, nonresidential areas. CHI did not indicate how much the program would cost in its proposal to the county.

Hotel vouchers cut

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Suffolk's latest homeless sex offender issue comes after legislators cut off funding to Levy's program to give the offenders $90 daily vouchers to stay in local hotels. Levy launched the voucher program after efforts to find a permanent site to house homeless sex offenders failed.

Legislators in May directed Social Services to develop a plan to house the offenders at multiple locations throughout the county. No more than six offenders could be placed at any one site, and no more than one site could be located in any legislative district or town, according to the legislation, sponsored by presiding officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook).

Levy is blaming the secrecy proposal - which came in response to the request for proposal issued by his Social Services department that followed the May legislation - on Lindsay.

"It's up to the Legislature to adopt this or come up with something else," Levy said. "We never wanted this system in the first place. We wanted the vouchers."

Lindsay said Levy is bitter that his voucher plan failed. Under Levy's voucher plan, Lindsay noted, communities received no notice that sex offenders were living nearby.

"That didn't work, so now he's trying to blow up anything else that comes down the line," Lindsay said. "I'm outraged about it. This is a serious problem and the only way it's going to get resolved is if everyone works together."

Laura Ahearn, the executive director of Parents for Megan's Law, said her organization prefers that homeless sex offenders stay at the trailer at the county's Riverhead jail.

"The process of selecting sites cannot be done surreptitiously," said Ahearn, who also opposes the voucher program.

Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) said Levy notified no one before placing temporary homeless sex offender trailers in Southampton and Riverhead.

"The county executive didn't notify anyone before the trailers went in," Schneiderman said. "Certainly if you were to just identify some sites and then go public with them as options, you're going to get your butt kicked. Nobody wants this anywhere near them."

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Sex bill vote

The Health and Human Services Committee last week unanimously passed Schneiderman-sponsored legislation to require the Social Services department to implement a homeless sex offender plan by Oct. 15. The bill goes to the full Legislature Tuesday.

Levy said it is unlikely that the sites will ever be established without the public's knowledge. "It's wishful thinking to believe that the Lindsay bill could establish these sites without the public knowing about them or wanting to be heard," he said. "It's going to lead to lawsuits at every turn."

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