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Jan 13, 2010 2:21 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Suffolk County will stop using East End trailers to house homeless sex offenders

Jan 13, 2010 2:21 PM

Suffolk officials announced Tuesday that they will soon close the trailers in Riverside and Westhampton that have been used to house most of the county’s homeless sex offenders for the past two years.

Instead of housing them there, and abandoning more recent plans to eventually build a permanent facility somewhere in western Suffolk, county officials said they will now implement a voucher system, similar to the one Nassau County utilizes, that provides homeless sex offenders with $90 a day to find a place on their own.

Earlier this week, Gregory Blass, the commissioner for Suffolk County’s Department of Social Services, said the department was hoping to acquire and renovate an empty building in an industrial park in western Suffolk to house the homeless sex offenders. Under that plan, the trailers in Riverside and Westhampton would have been used to house the overflow from that facility.

That plan was nixed on Tuesday. Suffolk County officials explained that they could not find a single permanent location that could serve the homeless population while also meeting the restrictions imposed by local laws that limit where the ex-convicts can live. For example, county law does not allow them to live within half a mile of where children typically gather, including schools, libraries and playgrounds.

“It’s a matter of the state, community groups and legislators not supporting the plan that we had in place,” said Roland Hampson, a spokesman for the county’s Department of Social Services, explaining the sudden policy change.

The Riverside trailer, located near the Suffolk County Jail, has 18 beds, and the Westhampton trailer, located near the Suffolk County Police Department shooting range on Old Country Road, can accommodate up to eight people per night. The trailers will be decommissioned in the next two to four weeks, Mr. Blass said.

On Wednesday, local community leaders and politicians praised the pending closure of the two trailers, both of which are located in Southampton Town.

“This is a great day for the people of Southampton and Riverside,” said Brad Bender, the president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association. He noted that town residents have worked tirelessly over the past two years to persuade county officials to rotate the trailers, as had been previously promised by Suffolk officials before they reneged on the agreement.

“It’s time to celebrate,” said Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, whose district houses both of the trailers. “Our voices were heard. I’m thrilled the East End will no longer have to shoulder this burden.”

The new voucher program, modeled after a program that Nassau and other counties in the state utilize, will cost Suffolk about $300,000 a year, the same amount as the current housing system, according to officials. The current system requires that the county pay for transporting the offenders from western Suffolk, where most of them live, to the county-owned trailers in Southampton Town.

Homeless sex offenders will soon be given stipends and be responsible for finding places to sleep—whether in motel rooms or boarding houses—until they can secure a more permanent residency, Mr. Blass said. The Department of Social Services cannot put the homeless sex offenders in normal shelters due to the many local restrictions.

Officials said they hope the offenders will comply with local regulations, such as those requiring that they not be near schools and playgrounds, though Mr. Blass, who was critical of the new program, said he doubts that the offenders will follow the rules and identify themselves when they check into motels and boarding homes.

The department was forced to implement the voucher system because, according to Mr. Blass, there was no support for the trailers or a permanent shelter. He added that, in his opinion, the new system will make it harder for the offenders to land on their feet financially.

“We expect them to be homeless a lot longer because we can’t provide a special shelter for them,” he said. “This is the least preferred approach because it’s the least effective in dealing with homelessness. We’re not able to monitor them overnight.”

The Department of Social Services has seen an increase in homeless sex offenders due to increased restrictions passed by local municipalities. The department has recently been servicing between 28 and 32 homeless sex offenders per night, which means that the lowest-level offenders have had to be placed in motel rooms for the night. Last year, the county had to find beds for between 10 and 20 offenders, according to Mr. Blass.

Increased restrictions on where sex offenders can live has, in part, contributed to the area’s growing homeless population, Mr. Blass said. In addition to Megan’s Law, a state law that requires sex offenders to register with local police whenever they move, there are numerous county and town laws that place restrictions on where sex offenders can live.

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why can't they be bussed to berkeley?
By deKooning (97), southampton on Jan 13, 10 5:46 PM
Didn't they just tear down a motel in Westhampton where they could have placed the homeless sex offenders?
By Frank Wheeler (1811), Northampton on Jan 14, 10 10:08 AM
So instead homeless sex offenders get $2,700 a month INDEFINITELY just to pay for lodging??? That sounds like a luxury living reward to me. This is CRAZY!!!!!
By WordNerd (1), Sag Harbor on Jan 14, 10 10:56 AM
3 members liked this comment
So the county is unable to find a location that will satisfy the ridiculous housing restrictions for released sex offenders, but it expects each of them individually to secure such a location. Could anything be more unrealistic? Would it have made the least bit of difference if, before implementing these restrictions, someone, anyone, had bothered to do a little research? They might have come upon this bit of information: "If the 2,000-foot rule had been in effect 10 years ago, I can't think ...more
By Shelomith Stow (6), Houston on Jan 14, 10 11:46 AM
1 member liked this comment
Why are we paying sex offenders 90 bucks a day to find shelter? Whoever came up withthat idea is an idiot. We need to stop being bleeding hearts. I know we can house them in trailers at the Riverhead jail and let them mingle withthe inmates. That seems fair. Who thinks that this is a good idea?
By rippedoffedtaxpayer (13), speonk on Jan 14, 10 2:08 PM
3 members liked this comment
In line with Shelomith's comments, I would like to know how many of the sex offenders are pedophiles or rapists. Over thirty years ago there was a national
fad called "streaking" where men and women, usually college students, would run through the streets nude. I wondered at the time if these folks realized that an arrest for indecent exposure would put them on the sex offenders registry.
By highhatsize (4006), East Quogue on Jan 14, 10 5:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
Providing sex offenders with housing or a housing stipend enables authorities to keep track of where they live thereby protecting children. It does seem outrageous to pay for this, but It is important that it be done.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jan 14, 10 5:47 PM
What's outrageous is handing them $90/night, telling them to find a suitable place to live, and NOT MONITORING
By barnbabe (64), westhampton beach on Jan 14, 10 7:33 PM
1 member liked this comment
THEIR WHEREABOUTS!!!
By barnbabe (64), westhampton beach on Jan 14, 10 7:33 PM
You reap what you sow. Everyone is clamoring for these tough restrictions. Here is the fruits of your B*****ng. You asked for it and these are the results. Perhaps in the future people will think before they actually blindly support such misguided laws.

Thousands of people dot the registries who had consensual sex, who have a single misdemeanor, who did nothing more than urinate in public. These laws protect no one. Registration lists so the neighborhood can see who they are... Too bad ...more
By samuelstorns (2), freedomville on Jan 15, 10 12:54 AM
1 member liked this comment
You think the laws protect kids? Name me on single life that has been saved by these laws. They have been around for 15 years or more surely someone can name me a one single life that has been saved!

"All sex offenders are not alike. And all sex offenders do not represent the same level of risk or threat, particularly to children," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Yet we treat them all the same.
By samuelstorns (2), freedomville on Jan 15, 10 1:00 AM
My kids are in elementary school and I very often receive notices with photos and ID's of sex offenders in our area. We have to know where the offenders live. That is a first step. The system does not always work, but we need to keep track of the offenders.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Jan 15, 10 8:19 AM
Highhatsize, you ask a valid question. Since different states have different criteria for labeling someone a sex offender--at least five states require registration for anyone arrested for soliciting a prostitute--arriving at a definitive percentage is difficult. Most studies yield a percentage of somewhere less than 10% of any given sex offender registry as being sexually violent rapists and child molesters. An article in the Economist reported that, according to Georgia's Sex Offender Registration ...more
By Shelomith Stow (6), Houston on Jan 15, 10 9:50 AM
I'm going to buy a barge, fill it with cots, take every crazy dime this County will give, and hope nobody gets mad and sinks it. But hey, I'll make sure it is insured.
By Publius (358), Westhampton Beach on Jan 15, 10 4:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
I have a GREAT IDEA, why don't we pick up all sex offenders and bring them to plum island? Maybe we can do crazy experiments on them instead of using real innocent animals. Can we do that?
The worste is that we're paying out of our own pockets for them to "find a home on their own"! Are you kidding me? Why don't we just put a tent in the back of our home and charge them $90 a night! Hahaha No Way! Our children aren't safe with these people roaming our streets. There is no "cure" for these ...more
By GE1008 (3), East Quogue on Jan 16, 10 10:02 AM
$90 a day? Whose brilliant idea was that? How are the Nassau County Tax Payers not completely up in arms about this? And are they monitored when they set out on their own to find "shelter"? Perhaps, if they are, then maybe the payout is valid, but if not, this is ludicrous. Wouldn't it just be cheaper to build a dormitory or something? For $90 a day you could live in a hotel with maid service. Or rent a four bedroom house. Every once in awhile I read something that makes my head spin, and this is ...more
By Cdwyer213 (68), Quogue on Jan 16, 10 4:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
$90 a day? This can't be accurate. I have a one bedroom apartment, which I rent, that costs about $35 a day (utilities included). $90 a day works out to be $32850 a year. My annual income, after taxes, is less than that. This is disgraceful. We are going to pay people to become pedophiles-- what the hell has happened to our country?
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jan 18, 10 4:04 AM
3 members liked this comment
p.s. my annual income is that of a blue collar worker who works 40 hours a week, all year round.
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Jan 18, 10 4:06 AM
I heartily and fully agree with 'AlwaysLocal'.
It's a travesty that these offenders would be paid any money whatsoever, for whatever reason. I cannot possibly imagine that this fact as reported is a reality.
Woe to us all.
By Cindy5X5 (6), Sag Harbor on Jan 18, 10 9:04 AM
1 member liked this comment
I am in favor of restricting the domicile of those convicted of pedophilia or rape but if it is true, as stated above by a poster, that public urination can get you on the sex offenders registry, then the registry is meaningless. In addition, it would be cruel and unusual punishment to attach the stigma of "sex offender" to anyone who has committed neither of these crimes.

On the other hand, were the registry winnowed of all but these, it would make sense.

I would imagine that ...more
By highhatsize (4006), East Quogue on Jan 18, 10 10:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
Simple solution. GPS Ankle bracelets... with alarms that go off if they are within the designated restricted areas.. Can definately be monitored for less that 90 dollars a day... its not so important to forbid them from living in certain areas as it is to know exactly where they are at any time... We have the technology to monitor, but we dont have the will... yet we love to yell and scream after they offend again... which they do...

By grimag (38), southampton on Jan 19, 10 7:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
There's room on McNeil Island.
By Montaukette (46), Waterland on Jan 20, 10 5:17 AM
"Highhatsize", in his previous post, has raised a MOST excellent legal point that I was not aware of.

I found his research difficult to believe, but when I checked these facts on the internet, it also stated that: "streaking" and "mooning" (two popular college-age activities from years back) can also land a person on an official sex-offenders list. That is, by the letter of the law.

In addition to that, the parents, themselves, would be held equally responsible for the actions ...more
By Cindy5X5 (6), Sag Harbor on Jan 20, 10 12:13 PM
I have to agree with some of the statements, but got quite a chuckle over grimag's suggestion for anklets. My suggestion, instead of an alarm, make it a taser!

I think that the registry is a great idea, but ultimately it is the parent's responsibility to monitor their children. Since the registry was published, I can not identify one particular child that it has saved solely. As a matter of fact it has not saved many as people still welcome these soles into their homes and serve their ...more
By cagsmith (2), center moriches on Jan 22, 10 11:35 AM
I personally have no problem with adding the taser, but the leftists will go nuts.. remember when we commit a crime upon society, society has a right to restrict and remove some of our rights.. the gps bracelet works fine for those on house arrest.. if its good enough for white collar felons.. its sure good enough for societal predators. The average pedaphile with offend upwards of 300 times in a lifetime...
By grimag (38), southampton on Jan 22, 10 3:11 PM
Cagsmith is correct in that there is totally no evidence or research supporting the idea that any crime whatsoever has ever been prevented by registry or residency restrictions. Law enforcement agencies over and over have said this, have further said that they make the situation worse, but no one is listening.
By Shelomith Stow (6), Houston on Jan 25, 10 9:49 AM
Suffolk Designer Lighting, Tent Sale, Renovation Sample Sale