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Hauppauge residents protest homeless shelter's schoolkids

Suffolk Legis. John M. Kennedy wants the county

Suffolk Legis. John M. Kennedy wants the county to cancel its contract with the operator of 96-family shelter in Hauppauge. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Dozens of Hauppauge residents continued to protest Monday against what they described as a homeless "mega-shelter" in Commack, even though social services officials said the number of youngsters attending Hauppauge schools has been cut in half to 10.

Nearly 80 residents protested the use of a former hotel as a shelter that can accommodate up to 100 families, claiming another complex in Brentwood 3 miles away has overwhelmed the community. "What they are trying to do to the Hauppauge community is a disgrace," said resident Lorretta Catalano.

John O'Neill, social services commissioner, countered that the number of children from the shelter attending Hauppauge schools dropped from 20 to 10 since October. He acknowledged the shelter also houses 128 school-aged children who are being bused to school districts in which the students resided before their families became homeless. He also said there were 13 children in the shelter who come from out of state.

Legis. Thomas Barraga (R-West Islip) questioned the decline and asked social services officials to voluntarily agree to lower the number of families in the hotel to reduce the impact on the community.

O'Neill said the drop was caused by some of the homeless families finding permanent homes, or simply leaving the shelters. Hauppauge school officials did not return calls seeking comment.

O'Neill declined to make a commitment to reduce the use of the shelter because of the continued growth in homelessness. Barraga made a motion to approve a resolution by Legis. John Kennedy (R-Nesconset) to shut the shelter within three months, but the Democratic-controlled Human Services Committee tabled the measure.

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