Oversight of Homeless Shelters

Issued Date
February 12, 2016
Temporary and Disability Assistance, Office of


To determine whether the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (Office) adequately oversees homeless shelters to ensure they are operating in compliance with applicable laws, rules, and regulations. Our audit scope covers the period April 1, 2013 to August 5, 2015.


The Office administers many important programs that assist the State’s low-income residents and provides leadership, guidance, and support to county Departments of Social Services (Local Districts) in the operation of these programs. Through its Bureau of Shelter Services, the Office seeks to meet critical transitional housing needs of the State’s homeless population – estimated at more than 80,000 and comprised of families, couples, and single adults – while guiding them to self-sufficiency. Larger-scale facilities – including certain family shelters that accommodate 10 or more families and adult shelters that accommodate 20 or more individuals – require State certification. The Office certifies and directly oversees these larger-scale facilities, and is responsible for inspecting them and ensuring they meet certain standards, as established in New York Codes, Rules and Regulations. In contrast, the Office has delegated authority for oversight of smaller, uncertified shelters to the Local Districts. However, the Office remains responsible for monitoring Local Districts’ oversight and inspection of uncertified shelters, and for ensuring they meet minimum standards established by State and local laws and codes.

Key Findings

  • The Office does not sufficiently monitor State-certified shelters, nor Local Districts’ oversight of uncertified shelters, to ensure that inspection violations are addressed properly and timely and that shelters are operating in compliance with applicable State and local requirements.
  • At both State-certified and uncertified shelters, we observed a range of substandard living conditions, the most egregious of which pose obvious and dangerous risks to shelter residents’ health and safety. These included fire and safety violations, rodent and vermin infestations, and mold conditions. We also found numerous examples of other unacceptable living conditions, including trash piles stored in a children’s play area; holes in walls, ceilings, and floors; worn or mutilated mattresses; and a rooftop-access door off its hinges, which could allow anyone – including children – access to the roof.

Key Recommendations

  • Take necessary actions to complete all annual inspections, and issue facility certifications, within the time limits prescribed for each shelter type.
  • Monitor Local Districts’ oversight activities and obtain sufficient documentation to ensure that the responsibilities delegated to them are adequately met.
  • Develop and implement a process to follow up on facilities with issues identified in prior inspections to ensure conditions are remedied and acceptable.

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest

NYC Human Resources Administration/NYC Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance: Benefit Eligibility Assessment Process (2012-S-51)

John Buyce

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: John Buyce
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236