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February 6 , 2013

Maragos: Shelter Program Placed Some Needy Families at Risk

$72,000 in duplicate payments found

Mineola, NY - At the request of County Executive Edward Mangano, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos conducted a limited review of the Emergency Shelter program operated jointly by the Department of Social Services and Office of Housing and Community Development. The review found various control issues and $72,000 in duplicate payments from 2010 and 2011 out of $20 million in aggregate payments to shelters during the audit period. This was less than a 1% variance. The review also found two shelters that were on the “Do Not Use” list for failure to meet safety and health standards but continued being used to house needy families.

“Emergency Shelter programs are vital to our communities and need to be operated safely and with appropriate supervision,” Comptroller Maragos said. “We should never place needy families in unsafe conditions. The demand for a safe and efficient Emergency Shelter program is more important than ever after Superstorm Sandy. I commend DSS for requesting and cooperating with the audit and agreeing to take immediate steps to correct its operational deficiencies and to recover the duplicate payments.”

Our review found duplicate payments totaling $64,600 as a result of overlapping dates and other claims and payments totaling $7,400 that were incorrectly paid to both the client and the homeless shelter. The $64,600 in overpayments to homeless shelters for the two years were the result of DSS incorrectly processing claims containing overlapping dates that were paid on other claim vouchers. The County spends over $10 million annually to house needy individuals and families.

The Comptroller’s Office also found that two shelters out of a total of 24 active shelters being used were on a DSS “Do Not Use” list for failing to meet safety and health standards. Continued use of these unsafe shelters placed residents at risk, and exposed the County to significant liability. The Comptroller’s Office recommended, and DSS agreed, that procedures and controls should be implemented to ensure that needy families are never housed in shelters on the “Do Not Use” list.

Those in need of emergency shelter should contact 1-866-927-6233, 1-866-WARM BED and they will be referred to a shelter and then asked to report to DSS the next day to be screened for services and to be given assistance to find permanent housing.

PDF File Limited Review of Emergency Shelter Program