Astorino Administration Blocks Move to Close Homeless Shelter in Mount Vernon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 7, 2013

Contact: Tom Staudter | ThomasS@westchesterlegislators.com | 914-995-2819 (office) | 914-815-4462 (cell)

Astorino Administration Blocks Move to Close Homeless Shelter in Mount Vernon

White Plains, NY – Despite last week’s public outcry to immediately close a homeless shelter in Mount Vernon located in a heavily trafficked school zone, the Astorino Administration blocked consideration of a resolution to do so today at a meeting of the County’s Acquisition and Contract Board (A&C).

The resolution was presented to the three-member A&C Board by Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) Vice Chair Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon), who was serving in place for BOL Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). Williams’ motion to place the resolution on the A&C agenda for discussion and consideration did not receive a second, however.

“This just shows that County Executive Astorino does not care about the safety and well-being of elementary school children and infants in a day care center in Mount Vernon,” said Williams. “If this shelter was located in a school or day care center of any other community I have no doubt the Mr. Astorino would relocate it to a more suitable location.”

Last week, Williams hosted a public hearing that drew a crowd of over 350 people regarding the new County-contracted homeless shelter at the Friendship Worship Center on East Lincoln Avenue.

A video of the public hearing is available online at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CArQnd3_W3U&feature=youtu.be

Williams noted that County Executive Astorino’s chief of staff, George Oros, promised those attending the public hearing that an effort would be made to close the homeless shelter as soon as possible, and that the contract with the Worship Center would not be renewed past April. But the actual contract for the shelter, which was opened on January 4 before any County approvals were made, has yet to be finalized.

In a letter sent to Astorino, Williams expressed his many concerns about the homeless shelter and said that the Administration was at fault for not informing the community beforehand of its decision to open the shelter. Furthermore, Williams wrote that Mount Vernon “cannot continue to be the dumping ground for all of the social problems of Westchester County, especially when considering that your Administration has eliminated from the 2013 County Budget many of the worthwhile programs that benefit Mount Vernon, like funding for at-risk youth initiatives that have been proven to be quite successful.”

At today’s A&C meeting, Williams questioned why the 108-units of housing at the former WestHELP site, which were constructed for the homeless, could not be used. Astorino closed the site in 2011 and the housing units at the site have remained unoccupied ever since. “It is a disgrace that housing for the homeless remains vacant and unoccupied while there are people in Westchester roaming the streets with nowhere to go,” said Williams.

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Bazzzo02/08/13

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