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Legislators table Hauppauge homeless shelter defunding decision despite continued protests

Hauppauge residents' concerns about a homeless shelter that

Hauppauge residents' concerns about a homeless shelter that has added 10 children to a district school are prompting a Suffolk lawmaker to push for legislation to end the county's agreement with the shelter. (Oct. 9, 2013) Credit: Johnny Milano

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the large shelter model as a way to reduce social services costs, issued an opinion that the local restriction is superseded by state emergency housing laws that allow more capacity.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.”

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