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NYC comptroller criticizes child care in homeless shelters

Scott Stringer, New York City's comptroller, released an audit concluding that facilities for homeless children are lacking. Oct. 26, 2016. (Newsday video / Matthew Chayes)

An audit by the New York City comptroller criticized child care in government-sponsored homeless shelters, saying his review found “dangerous shortcomings.”

Comptroller Scott Stringer said that more than 80 percent of workers had not been screened for child abuse or criminal background, 41 percent of child-care facilities in shelters had no sprinklers and 20 percent had no fire extinguishers.

“We have one system of child care for the haves and another, dramatically inferior version for our homeless population. It’s a jolt to the soul, it’s morally wrong,” Stringer told reporters Wednesday at his office in the Municipal Building in lower Manhattan.

Families with children spend an average of 412 days living in shelters, said Stringer, whose audit also found that the number of children ages 3 and younger living in commercial hotels went up 224 percent between April and August.

Those facilities have no on-site child-care facilities, the 27-page audit found.

Last week, the number of people living in New York City homeless shelters hit a record high of 60,000, according to city figures. The number was about 51,000 when de Blasio took office in 2014. The rate of growth has slowed; the number of homeless people in shelters rose over the administrations of several of his predecessors.

According to the audit, the number of families relying on the city’s homelessness agency has gone up 68 percent to 12,828 in August from 7,624 in August 2007. There are about 23,598 children in city shelters.

Asked about the audit, de Blasio spokeswoman Aja Worthy-Davis said the city’s homelessness officials are “working with several city agencies to develop a system to effectively provide child care across shelters. We expect those protocols will be in place in the next few months.”


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