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Legislators table Hauppauge homeless shelter defunding decision despite continued protests
Protests continued yesterday over a large new homeless shelter within the Hauppauge School District, but Suffolk County legislators again declined to advance a bill that would defund its operation.
About two dozen residents attended the legislature’s human services committee meeting in Hauppauge, saying that the shelter — which runs out of an old hotel in Commack and can hold nearly 100 families — is overburdening a small portion of the county with a disproportionately large amount of its homeless population.
Combined with another new, large shelter in Brentwood, close to half of Suffolk’s 565 homeless families may be housed within 2 square miles, critics noted, potentially impacting area property values and straining the resources of two school districts.
“I feel like it’s only a matter of time until we become one of the more undesirable communities,” Jennifer Reidy, of Hauppauge, said to lawmakers.
Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) has proposed a bill to cancel the contract with the nonprofit that runs the Commack shelter, arguing its size violates a county law that says shelters can house no more than 12 families at once.
The committee, however, tabled Kennedy’s bill — the second consecutive meeting in which they’ve done so. County Executive Steve Bellone’s administration, which supports the large shelter model as a way to reduce social services costs, issued an opinion that the local restriction is superseded by state emergency housing laws that allow more capacity.
“This is a question of equity and impact,” Kennedy said in disagreeing with the county attorney’s opinion. He noted that the county was setting a bad precedent by effectively calling its own laws unenforceable.
“What we do matters.”