The County issued a press release regarding this contractual move with a church, the Friendship Worship Center. Here is one portion quoted from it: “The drop-in site is simply a humane response that allows the homeless to get out of the cold and into a clean bed for the night. It protects some of the most vulnerable in our society from freezing outdoors and does so in a cost-effective way. Westchester County has a long history of taking care of the less fortunate and providing shelter for the homeless.” What the press release neglects to discuss is the humane approach to our children that is of the utmost importance.
In the never-ending saga of politically correctness, but ignoring common sense, the Astorino administration has moved forward with putting this homeless facility, aka warming center, in a daily-use area for children on Mount Vernon’s Lincoln Avenue. Documents received by ABG and posted here show the blatant disregard for Mount Vernon’s youth with a communication from County Legislator Lyndon Williams. While nothing may ever happen between the kids and the homeless adults, ABG doesn’t believe Astorino and his administration should take that chance.
It’s well known that many of today’s homeless population have mental challenges and pose risks to themselves and others when left to fend for themselves. And while we recognize the need to address the homeless population being outdoors with this frigid weather of late, ABG also recognizes the harsh realities that come with not addressing these people’s needs properly. Legislators have passed laws to treat the mentally challenged population more humanely and like they are normal. We’ve seen their actions force the closure of psychiatric facilities and clinics that would normally help them.
After witnessing the carnage in Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, our heightened concern for school children questions just how prudent it is to place the homeless population in immediate proximity to the four surrounding schools’ children? The school’s church opens to receive the homeless only at night (9 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and during colder months until mid-April, releasing them into the neighborhood that has the children coming to school each morning. The Mount Vernon YMCA used to provide this service for the homeless until they were forced to close their doors. Even though a church may be a good spot to help the homeless population, it needs to be a church that can be utilized away from children.
A statement from community leader Donna Jackson sums up the issue rather well. “I'm against the placement of this shelter in this facility, considering that it would be placed smack dab in the middle of a residential zone surrounded by 4 schools (one of which exists in the same building of the propsed shelter). Mount Vernon's mental health, medical and social services have been slashed and dismantled thanks to Astorino (so how would our community service these people from the COUNTY?), if there was a real genuine, heartfelt need to "save a shelter" or expand a shelter, the county should have (a) not closed the Greenburgh facility or (b) if there was funding available, they could have helped Mount Vernon invest in and shore up the homeless shelter at the YMCA. The placement of this shelter at Friendship, without appropriate social service supports, and without advanced public input is a slap in the face to Legislator Lyndon Williams, and this portion of taxpaying voters of Westchester County.”
ABG was disturbed to find a link between Greenburgh, Mount Vernon, The Paul and Astorino. Bishop Edwers, is a County Transportation Board member. His wife works with the County Youth Bureau, where Astorino recently appointed faithful Republican and County Legislative candidate Iris Pagan, to a commissioner position. ABG understands there have been other interactions that Astorino has had with Edwers, showing him other favors in the past. The church is a big building and Rev. Edwers needs to pay a mortgage, heating and electric bills, and so on. This seems like another done-deal the County walked “winked” toward with an old friend, angling another pawn in this strategic Greenburgh/Feiner/Astorino chess game of collusion and compromise. We need politicians with a moral, ethical and legal compass. Just skirting the boundaries of the law must stop. We can only hope.