MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — What was supposed to help with the homelessness problem in and around Long Island Rail Road train stations, may be causing more problems for people in need and commuters alike.
The LIRR hired an outside agency to help with the homeless problem in and around railroad stations. Eleven months into its five-year, $860,000 contract, an audit by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli claims Services for the Underserved (SUS) is not doing its job, even lying about its outreach.
“Our audit found that [the] LIRR’s homeless outreach program has not performed well for the homeless or for the LIRR,” DiNapoli said. “Tougher oversight is needed to make sure the railroad is not being fed dubious information on homeless outreach. The way we’ve seen temperatures drop over the past week makes it all the more important that LIRR see to it that any homeless [people] at their stations are offered assistance and shelter.”
CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan captured on video Thursday a homeless man adjacent to the tracks at the Mineola station sleeping near bicycles. Other homeless people were seeking shelter from the cold inside the station.
McLogan attempted to speak to the man, but he did not answer.
Commuters said they were disappointed that the railroad’s good intentions appear to be going to waste.
“If we are going to use either LIRR money or state money, you have to police the private contractor that you put in charge of doing something. You can’t just hand over money,” Karen Bodner said.
“It is a really nice endeavor to try to help the homeless. It’s really a shame and it’s an outrage that they haven’t used the funds properly,” Marielle Moreno added.
The LIRR called results of the audit unacceptable, but isolated. The agency pledged to tighten oversight, develop internal standards and help the homeless in stations and on trains.
“Homelessness is a devastating, complex societal problem,” LIRR spokesman Aaron Donovan said Wednesday. “The Long Island Rail Road and MTA Police Department share the comptroller’s aspiration to help those in need, which is why we entered into this contract to provide that assistance. The comptroller’s recommendations are welcomed as we always look to improve services, and we are taking steps to address his concerns.”
Members of the New York State Legislature sent a letter the LIRR on Thursday, informing them of their intention to hold hearings on the “dire state of the LIRR.”