Cuomo signs executive action to help homeless

Local News

The temperatures are dropping this week into territory dangerous for those with no place to go. To help protect the homeless, Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed an executive order that tells cities to find them shelter when we hit freezing, though some local shelters are voicing concern.

The executive order goes into effect on January 5th, on a day when temperatures are expected to be well below freezing. Both the City of Rochester and the Open Door Mission agree that Rochester is well equipped to help its homeless take shelter this winter.

Parts of the Governor’s executive order are similar to the Code Blue efforts already in place for Rochester area shelters and hospitals, but the Executive Director of the Open Door Mission, Mike Hennessy, says the differences in the tactics here and the tactics being ordered from Albany have him worried.

“When someone is not willing to comply, are you going to arrest them? And if the jails are full, what happens then? And then if you bring someone to a shelter, and the shelter’s full, what takes precedent? Is it the fire code or the executive order?” said Hennessy.

Hennessy also raised concerns over the homeless being forced into shelters that may not want to be there, saying they could have a negative effect on the rest of the community in the shelter.

“We’re focusing on healthy shelter here. We’re focusing on having a place where men and hopefully someday women, not here, but somewhere else, can come and get the support they need that are ready to work with us on their next step,” said Hennessy.

As of mid-day Monday, Hennessy says no one from the city had been in contact with the mission on what’s in store when the order takes effect. Though the City Communications Director, James Smith, tells News 8 the city already has an effective and collaborative plan that works.

“In Rochester we’re really, I think a model community as it relates to this issue. So complying with the Governor’s order is something that should be… you know fit right in with how we’ve always do business here as it relates to this issue.”

As for enforcement of taking homeless people off the street, Smith says the safety of city police officers is a concern. City lawyers and RPD will be discussing a course of action with state officials. It appears the city will not make any immediate changes, though Hennessy says the Open Door Mission will continue to do its part.

The order requires shelters to extend their hours when its below 32 degrees. It also claims the state will assist agencies if they lack the resources to accompany the additional intake.

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