Cuomo’s homeless order leaves little time to comply -Democrat & Chronicle – January 5, 2016

Cuomo’s homeless order leaves little time to comply
By: Jon Campbell and David Riley

ALBANY – Local governments and police agencies weren’t left with much time to comply with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new mandate on homelessness.

Cuomo’s executive order, which was issued Sunday and requires that homeless people are taken to shelters when the temperature drops below freezing, goes into effect Tuesday, leaving little time for homeless shelters and local officials to put a plan in place.

“I think everybody’s still trying to fully understand it,” said James Smith, a spokesman for the city of Rochester.

The order requires all local social-service and police agencies, as well as all state agencies, to “take all necessary steps” to identify homeless individuals who are unwilling or unable to find shelter in freezing weather and “move such individuals to the appropriate sheltered facilities.”
Local government officials gave the mandate a mixed review. Several praised the goal of cutting down on homelessness while raising concerns about who is going to pay for the added costs.

Peter Baynes, executive director of the state Conference of Mayors, said Cuomo’s goal is “laudable” and “shared by every mayor in this state.”

But he raised questions about the “practical limitations and financial costs” associated with the order, as well as its vague promise of additional state resources for local governments.

“While the order promises assistance to local social service districts, the nature of this aid needs to be clearly spelled out, including the degree to which it will offset the additional public safety costs for municipal compliance with this mandate,” said Baynes, whose group represents the mayors of New York’s cities and villages.

In the Rochester area, shelter operators and local officials said agencies here already do a good job with outreach and getting most homeless people off the street and into available beds.

The exception is the chronically homeless, a hard-to-serve portion of the population that often suffers from mental illness and/or addiction. Some of these individuals have been sanctioned from getting assistance from the county.

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