Safety Net Update
Westchester’s Homeless Safety Net Still Tattered
The agreement between Westchester County and the City of White Plains to open 17 warming center beds in White Plains is a very positive step forward, and we applaud them for this positive step. However, the safety net system that served Westchester’s homeless so well for 18 years is still not restored. The county must immediately take the following steps to restore our safety net:
1) Westchester's safety-net system must be year-round.
Most of the warming centers are temporary, scheduled to close in April. As of May 1st, Yonkers and Peekskill will be the only communities with any safety net shelter. This policy will increase the number of people living on the street in every community, including Yonkers. For 18 years, our safety net system was year-round. It must be made year-round now.
2) Westchester's safety-net system must be county-wide.
For 18 years, we had a county-wide emergency system. Anyone found homeless anywhere in Westchester would be referred and transported to an empty safety net bed wherever a bed was available. Currently, the county refuses to provide transportation or centralized emergency referrals, and 39 Westchester communities have no access at all to safety net shelter. We are one county and we need one system that ensures that homeless people can access shelter from anywhere in Westchester.
3) Westchester's safety-net system must meet minimum standards of decency.
The county is using the concept of warming centers to lower the standard of what is acceptable. It closed a Mount Vernon warming center that offered beds, sandwiches, showers, transportation and access to services, in favor of one that provided only benches and security guards. This policy ensures that homeless people will be sent out each morning to wander neighborhoods tired, dirty, disheveled, hungry, disconnected from services, and desperate. This is bad social policy and it is morally wrong! Providing a link to services can help ensure that safety net shelters are not just a dead end, but instead serve as the first rung on a ladder to stable housing.
What We Want
County Executive Astorino must make one call to our Department of Social Services to:
1. Guarantee that no one in Westchester will be denied safety net shelter.
2. Ensure that all homeless facilities offer beds, food, showers and access to services.
3. Restore the year-round safety net.
4. Restore central placement and transportation.
What You Can Do
Contact County Executive Rob Astorino. The power is in his hands. You can
- CALL him at (914) 995-2900
- or FAX him at (914) 995-3113
- or EMAIL him at firstname.lastname@example.org
“If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.” — Anita Roddick