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New Rochelle Drop-In One of Only 26 "Very Poor" Shelters in NYS

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New Rochelle Drop-In One of Only 26 "Very Poor" Shelters in NYS

November 01, 2016 - 16:05
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Oasis Drop-In Rated one of 26 Worst Shelters in New York State

Edit: The wrong link was attached for the audit, it is fixed!

I think New Rochelle’s drop-in shelter Oasis is the worst in the county. Other people think so too. A May audit of NYS shelter conditions by the state comptroller found that Oasis was one of 26 shelters out of the 387  he audited which were “very poor;” the lowest ranking.

To understand the problems at Oasis, you have to go back to 2010 when it was a full service shelter. It mispent almost 300,000 in county funds. In 2012 The county made Westcop, the 30 million dollar organization that runs the shelter sign a repayment agreement giving them three years to pay the money off in small monthly installments, but they asked for more time.

In 2011 Oasis was to be closed, but a number of community figures, some with ties to Westcop, intervened and it became a drop-in instead. Ron Williams, head of the New Rochelle NAACP and former vice-chairperson of the local Westcop branch, cited County Executive Rob Astorino’s responsiveness on the issue as a major reason he endorsed him in 2012.

Oasis had no fire or health inspections from 2012–2014, a board of health employee emailed me that they were “closed” these years; I guess I hallucinated staying there. In 2014, after I had written about the conditions, and contacted HUD, though they weren’t responsive and illegally ignored my foil request, the shelter was finally inspected.

The fire inspection discusses the building being put on fire watch because the alarm system was offline The fire extinguishers had not being replaced since 2011. Wiring was exposed. Despite this only a warning was given, and the issues were not fixed until (right) after I foiled for the inspection reports.

The board of health inspections list the facts that at one point two of the bathrooms were not working, rodent droppings were observed, cots were broken, extermination records (for the extreme bedbug infestation) were not onsite, the walls were in disrepair, and that there were “roaches in the dishwasher.” It mentions the leak in the ceiling which looked like this in 2014. The health department required them to fix the issues or be closed, but as of this June they have still been having meetings about the problems instead of taking concrete action. The leak was just fixed again a few weeks ago (it always reopens due to shoddy work), and they painted, but the bedbugs are still running rampant, and the bathrooms are still not working right.

It has long been alleged that Oasis misspends its money. According to their 2014 contract they receive 21,000 a year to hire a part time maintenance man who they used until recently as a client care worker, as well as 3,500 for maintenance and 10,000 for “Repair/EQ.” In 2015 and again this year they got extra money (over 30,000 each time). While the stated reasons were overcapacity and being open in the cold (despite the paid day program), I believe they got these funds to make repairs, which were obviously never done, since the issues are still present and they are still asking people for money. 

Mysteriously, Westcop’s  area director, the facility director, and an assistant director, are all being paid to supervise the staff at a facility only open from 9:30–7 (the day program run by Oasis and Hope is a separate contract) which is supposed to serve 27 people. None of them are usually there. The contract also pays an accountant 18,000 a year.

In 2014 Oasis stopped giving clients meals even though they were still being paid to do so.

In Westchester to go to a 24 hour shelter you must be referred by social services who often turns people away. As a result the drop-ins are all over capacity; Oasis has about 80 people sometimes more, in what is supposed to be a 27 bed facility. 

Oasis exacerbates the issue by not telling people they can go to social services, or denying them letter of proof. Oasis serves both New Rochelle and Mount Vernon clients because Mount Vernon forced their drop-in to close in 2013, doubling Oasis’s population. Despite this, many drop-in clients are from New Rochelle.

Many clients sleep in chairs, but for years there were empty beds on the third floor (which were used if friends of the directors) came, though they claimed it was for working people. Third floor clients got the same bed every night, nicer rooms, and at one point had their own television lounge. Oasis can no longer do this because the county has been  making them fill up the beds with 10 people from Yonkers, who in the current craziness there are being vanned here nightly. They are also being forced finally to put more Oasis clients there as well.

This year the county only contracted with Oasis until April. The contract states that the county will be “modifiying the scope of services” Oasis provides. The state has been cracking down on bad shelters, and those over capacity, so that may have played a role. However, The RFP was not issued until April, so Oasis’s contract was extended until June, citing the fact that it is the areas only drop-in. The rfp only got three responses (the county admitted they did not advertise it well,) and they considered two to be noncompliant. The rfp was reissued a few weeks ago, and Oasis’s contract was extended until 2017.

There are some mysteries here. The clarifications to the first rfp claim that this is not a replacement for Oasis, yet, the RFP states that the new drop-in would serve the same amount of clients. There are several possibilities:

1.      The county is replacing Oasis.

2.      They are opening up a new warming center to supplement Oasis

If it is door number two, Oasis must be reassigned anyways, and the new drop-in must be in Mount Vernon, they have to do their fair share.

Edit: Just want to claify, I am saying that if there is a second drop-in in our area, it must be in Mount Vernon. I am NOT saying that New Rochelle should not have one, that would be as wrong as what Mount Vernon did in 2013, and wrong for the homeless people from this city. There also must be a new 24- hour residential shelter for drop-in clients who want to enter the system and get assistance, this should be in New Rochelle, Mount Vernon does already have several.

 The new drop-in would open at 10 making it the latest one to open in the county, and it has no funding for meals. Illegally, it would not be required to provide clients with showers. Many of the requests for clarification to the RFP request that these conditions be changed. The county replied in one word: no.

The RFP may also be rigged, but that will be discussed later.

One thing I do not understand: Respectfully, The Catholic Church, Oasis's landlord should do something. They also have empty school buildings just sitting there  while people live in these conditions.

Want to Help?

 Have you donated anything to Oasis (towels, crockpots, microwaves etc.) A staff member is selling items online, but I cannot prove they are from Oasis without donor confirmation. Email me at [email protected] to see pictures.

Please read the companion articles here and here!