Andrew Cuomo orders homeless to seek shelter during cold spells

By on January 4, 2016
Andrew Cuomo orders homeless to seek shelter during cold spells

Andrew Cuomo’s Homeless Shelter Executive Action Has Some Appealing Pros & Some Troubling Cons.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued new directives for homeless relief efforts on Sunday by signing an executive order which asks agencies to locate the homeless and transport “at-risk” people to shelters even if they refuse help.

The executive order also asks agencies to extend shelter hours when temperatures reach the freezing mark of 32 degrees or colder.

In a statement, Gov. Cuomo said the move was an act of “basic humanity.”

Dale Zuchlewski, the executive director of the Homeless Alliance of Western New York, said he agrees wholeheartedly with the intent of the executive order, but he’s concerned with the timing and logistics.

“You’re setting up a whole new system,” Zuchlewski said. “Things like that take time. You can’t just order that to happen.”

Dale Zuchlewski said the requirement to transport “at-risk” homeless people to shelters may be more difficult than it sounds. It often takes months — or even years — to build a successful and trusted relationship with a homeless person, which means it may be a challenge to implement the Governor’s orders so quickly.

In Buffalo, a “Code Blue” to help the homeless find shelter already takes effect when the temperatures fall to 15 degrees.

“We’re glad the Governor recognizes this, but we wish we would have been part of the plan. We wish it hat started in June and July when we do the planning for Code Blue,” Zuchlewski said. “We could have expanded it easily. Easily.”

The Homeless Alliance of Western New York, in collaboration with other agencies, has already helped to drastically reduce the long-term homeless population in Buffalo. Zuchlewski said only 25 people in Buffalo are currently considered “chronically” homeless. That’s a 95 percent decrease from the past four years, when that number stood at 400.

Zuchlewski said the executive order may represent another step toward a long-term solution.

“Maybe we can start it this year, and build upon it and do better planning next year. The resources can’t be for one year. They have to be for ensuing years, too,” Zuchlewski said, “and be part of a permanent effort.”

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