Reports of mold, fire and safety hazards, vermin and rodent infestations in many of New York City's homeless shelters have auditors pionting their fingers at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
These findings were reported under the oversight of the state's Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA). The audit was released by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli on Tuesday Feb. 16. It stated that its auditors gave operators less than 24 hours' notice before visiting 20 certified and 19 uncertified shelters statewide, which included 26 in New York City.
“It is imperative that OTDA strengthen its oversight of shelters as we undertake a badly-needed statewide review of this vital support system,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Homelessness is a problem throughout New York State. Escaping homelessness requires opportunity and support. New York’s most vulnerable residents deserve far better than the unacceptable conditions we found in these shelters. We appreciate the state’s renewed effort to improve these critical services.”
The audit, which covered the period from April 2013 to Aug. 2015, estimated New York’s homeless population to be at 80,000 and said that most of the shelters were in filthy living conditions and some posed serious health risks.
Gov. Cuomo spoke with New York 1 on the morning of Feb. 16, saying that the state could have done more. He announced that his administration has made changes, which include a state-wide inspection system and better policing of shelter.
"I agree that the state was not aggressive enough for a period of time and that's now changed," Cuomo said. "We have to do a better job and the city has manage the shelter system in accordance with the rules and regulations. We're going to make sure that that happens."
According to CBS New York, OTDA spokeswoman Kristi Berner said on Feb. 16 that new regulations have been put in place. She stated that legislation has been advanced to make it easier to remove bad operators and the OTDA has a partnership with state, Buffalo and New York City comptrollers to examine shelters statewide.
“The audit, conducted in the middle of last year, may have raised valid points, but it’s now dated as our policies have since been revised,” Berner said.
Auditors found that 22 of the 47-most serious issues were previously noted in the OTDA annual inspections remain uncorrected with no follow-up or enforcement actions.
According to the report, local districts had submitted claims in 2014 for $1.1 billion to OTDA - $954.5 million for housing in New York City and $140.4 million for housing in the rest of the State.
See the full report here.