April 10, 2013 —
In an ongoing effort to rein in spending in Sullivan County, the legislature has been considering gradually shifting to a new model of housing the homeless in the county. Right now, the county houses about 200 homeless adults and children in 11 different motels in various locations.
Recently several legislators traveled to Delaware County, where officials enter into lease agreements with the owners of smaller properties, rather than paying rent to large motels. During a discussion at the government center on April 4 about housing the homeless in Sullivan, Randy Parker, commissioner of the Division of Family Services, said the division had begun examining the lease option and had been approached by private property owners about leasing specific properties. However, before moving further in that direction, he wanted to “standardize what the reimbursement would be on a monthly basis, if we were to do single rooms, double rooms.”
With the leases, the possibility of shared facilities such as kitchens exists; with motels, the homeless are housed in a single room. Parker said the intent would be to find locations near population centers where residents could walk to grocery stores, counseling sessions and job interviews.
Legislator Cindy Gieger, who is the chair of the Health and Family Services Committee, said there is expected to be a cost savings in switching from the motel model to the lease model. She also noted that Parker recently had negotiated the price the county pays to the motels.
Parker said that 10 of the motels had agreed to a significant reduction in the amount of money they are paid by the county to house the homeless, but one motel had refused to negotiate. He said that the hotel is the one that currently houses level two and level three sex offenders, and he said there are fairly strict and specific regulations regarding the housing of those sex offenders. He added that he is “attempting to set a meeting with probation, parole and law enforcement regarding future plans for housing level two and three sex offenders.”
According to the sex offender registry maintained by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, there are more than 120 level two and three sex offenders in the county, and about 12 of them are housed in a motel in Liberty. A level two sex offender is one with a moderate risk of a repeat offense and level three indicates a high risk of a repeat offense.