NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — City Comptroller Scott Stringer moved quickly and aggressively Thursday to fulfill Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandate to oversee homeless shelters.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the move came just as CBS2 homelessness expert Robert Mascali offered a new idea for making the facilities safer and more appealing.
Cuomo specifically did not want to see homeless people who would rather brave bone-chilling temperatures than go to a shelter because they are dirty or dangerous. That was why in his State of the State address Wednesday, he asked Stringer to accept a new job inspecting and overseeing safety and cleanliness.
Stringer wasted no time.
“We’ve established a war room,” Stringer said. “I’m very serious about doing a holistic and transparent approach to monitoring and auditing these shelters.”
Stringer has already done one audit that found horrifying and dangerous conditions in 90 percent of family shelters and apartments for homeless families.
“Rat infestations, dangerous living conditions, have no place in a shelter system where 23,000 children sleep,” Stringer said.
Stringer has accepted Cuomo’s assignment to, as the comptroller described it, “continue to hold the city’s feet to the fire.
“I intend to be aggressive,” Stringer said. “You have to work with the administration while you’re holding the administration accountable.”
Mascali, a former deputy commissioner in the Department of Homeless Services, has a new idea for fixing the shelters. He advised paying the homeless to help clean them.
“I think it’s time to start thinking outside the box,” Mascali said. “Let’s get these people onboard right away – pay them some money, get them working – because the maintenance staffs in these shelters are usually woefully inadequate.”
The city said it might consider Mascali’s suggestion.
“We are looking at all options for job training and shelter assistance,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary, Karen Hinton. “The administration is working aggressively to inspect and repair shelters, but many of the needed repairs require professional, capital improvements.”
Mascali pointed out that putting shelter residents to work will get them invested in the place where they are staying.
“They’re going to be upset if they see another shelter resident throwing something on the floor,” Mascali said. “They’ll be saying, “I have to clean, you know – don’t be doing that.’”
The city said it is trying to develop a program to help the homeless develop the job skills necessary to be self-sufficient so they can leave the shelter system permanently.
The mayor hopes to find jobs for 20,000 people.