The phenomenon of hotels being used as homeless shelters is not only occurring in Manhattan. It’s happening on Long Island too.
Back in early August, the Town of Oyster Bay issued a stop work order against a developer planning to turn an old, unused Hampton Inn hotel into the new “Jericho Family Support Center.” The idea was to house homeless families there. The Jericho Family Support Center would be managed by a nonprofit called Community Housing Innovations, in conjunction with the county commissioner of social services.
Many residents opposed the move, while others supported it. A lawsuit challenging the conversion and seeking a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) was filed in Nassau County Supreme Court. An initial TRO was obtained, and the Court extended the TRO again last week.
The property, which is located at the intersection of Brush Hollow Road and Jericho Turnpike, would house an estimated 80 families in the shelter (with no single people). Those in favor of the plans say that the site will allow them to keep families together in a safe environment before moving them to more stable housing.
Those opposed to the shelter, however, raised the issue of zoning in their arguments against it, and the town of Oyster Bay agreed.
The empty Hampton Inn is currently zoned for short stay use. The town defines short stay, as per State regulations, as a stay for no longer than 30 days. If the hotel was converted to a shelter, the homeless families could potentially stay for six to eight months, much longer than the currently allowed 30 day limit.
"If we were to allow them to break our zoning code it would set a legal precedent," says Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino. "We are protecting our zoning codes and in doing so we are protecting our residents."
Some residents say that the project was not transparent.
"We certainly don't have an issue with homeless people having shelter or even having shelter in Jericho. It really was the way that this thing was done under the radar, it appears to be an underhanded type of deal and without any input from the community, the school district, from the local politicians, from the town and without any real thoughts," says Marc Albert, of Concerned Jericho Parents.
Other residents are not concerned and feel that it could be a positive move. They believe that the shelter is an important project that would help families gain access to critical services.
"We know all of the good things that the support center was going to do -- child care, tutoring, budgeting workshops, life skills development, housing assistance and so much more," says Sivan Komatsu. "These families really deserve to be getting that, so it's really just heartbreaking that because of a group of people, they're not getting that."
It will be interesting to see how this all turns out, since there is a State mandate that requires the Department of Social Services to assess and provide temporary housing for those who are eligible.
We will, of course, keep you posted!