The citizens of Jericho were confused. Why were they not told of plans to open a homeless shelter at the old site of the former Hampton Inn hotel?
Some residents were displeased with the mere idea of having the shelter in the area. However, the majority of people have offered to assist the newly created family support center.
“On July 23, I was advised that the Nassau County Department of Social Services intends to relocate several families who are currently residing in squalid, inhumane conditions in several motels in Jericho to a new location at the recently-sold Hampton Inn,” Legislator Arnold Drucker (D—Plainview) said in a statement to Anton Media Group. “However, these plans were communicated to my office in a woefully inadequate manner.”
The planned homeless shelter will take over the vacant hotel at the corner of Brush Hollow Road and Jericho Turnpike.
There will be 80 units in the old hotel that will be available for families who are housing insecure. The Department of Social Services stated that the shelter will be run by the Patchogue-based Community Housing Innovations, an organization with 29 years of experience managing emergency housing. It will have a $6 million budget per year unless otherwise noted.
“Although it is my belief that any homeless family is entitled to live in a safe, dignified and humane temporary shelter, the communities affected by the relocation or placement of these homeless families deserve to be informed and have their opinions heard,” Drucker said.
Families will be permitted to stay in the Jericho facility for anywhere from six to eight months. Then, they will hopefully transition into permanent housing. But with the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus pandemic, especially with a sky-high unemployment rate, that time span might not be long enough.
The shelter must also limit the spread of COVID-19, making sure families are in safe conditions where they can quarantine for two weeks if needed without spreading the virus.
The developer of the property will be applying for permits to remove the pool on the property in order to create a child care center. The shelter will also not be allowed to administer methadone, a drug commonly used to fight opioid addictions.
The family support center will have a curfew of 9 p.m. on school nights, with that time being pushed to 11 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
Additionally, no prior sex offenders will be allowed to live within the family support center.
“It is Nassau County’s role to provide emergency housing for homeless individuals and family,” the county said in a statement. “But Nassau is not managing the property and has no role in the everyday operations of the shelter.”
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Community Housing Innovations will have enhanced cleaning protocols for the property. The families living there will be provided personal protection equipment (PPE). There will also be frequent COVID-19 screenings.
The School District
The main concern residents have is how the new facility will impact the Jericho School District. The family support center is about a half-mile away from the Cantiague Elementary School.
But this stigma needs to be put to an end immediately, especially before families move in.
Nineteen children will be attending schools in the Jericho School District, the county said. But people have raised concerns that having the extra students will cost tax payers additional money if the children opt to stay in the district, which is the top-rated on Long Island.
“In late January, we heard rumors from several constituents that there were discussions at the county level to establish a transitional housing facility in Jericho,” Superintendent of Schools Hank Grishman said in an Aug. 3 email to parents. “At the request of the school district, a meeting did in fact occur on Jan. 13, 2020 with representatives from the Nassau County Department of Social Services.
“At the time, there was no way DSS could predict the number of students placed in our schools because our numbers fluctuate. At that time, we had 36 homeless students residing in Jericho. Now, we have 24.”
The district, Grishman explained, was not told of further developments about the family support center. When district officials saw construction on the property, they contacted the DSS, which then said Nassau County approved the facility.
Additionally, the district will not have to pay for the 19 new children attending the schools, the county said. The cost for those students will be provided by each student’s previous district.
“Our job is to make sure that every student lawfully residing in Jericho, regardless of economic status, race or ethnicity, is educated to the best of our ability,” Grishman said.
Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino did host a Zoom town hall on Aug. 3 to discuss the plan moving forward. With increased clarity about the family support center, residents now realize the importance of providing for those who need help with the increase in homeless people during the pandemic.
“What can we do to help support these families and children?” one resident asked on Drucker’s Aug. 2 Facebook post revealing further details for the shelter.
That is exactly the line of thinking that is needed.