Homeless man in Harlem (156037)
Homeless man in Harlem Credit: Bill Moore

An audit released this week by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli found the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) continues to provide inadequate oversight of homeless shelters, allowing unsafe conditions that pose significant health and safety risks.

Out of the 159 shelters DiNapoli’s auditors visited in the spring of 2019, 96 (60%) were in unsatisfactory condition. Twenty-one of those were identified in poor condition in prior audits by the comptroller. At both certified and uncertified shelters, as well as hotels and motels, auditors observed a range of unsatisfactory, and even squalid living conditions.

Significant violations included structural damage, mold, bugs and vermin, exposed wiring, water damage, missing smoke detectors, expired or uncharged fire extinguishers, and signs of smoking and drug use.

DiNapoli’s office offered several recommendations including improvements to policies and procedures for using inspection checklists and monitoring shelter violations and reviewing required plans to help homeless individuals and families secure permanent housing.