Oversight of Homeless Shelters

Issued Date
March 10, 2020
Temporary and Disability Assistance, Office of


To determine if 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 covered the period from July 1, 2016 through July 2, 2019.

About the Program

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, New York State has the second largest population of homeless in the United States, with 91,897 homeless individuals. New York also had the largest increase in this population – 46.8 percent – between 2007 and 2018.

The Office administers programs for the State’s low-income residents and provides support to local Social Services Districts (Local Districts) in the operation of these programs. The Office seeks to meet critical transitional housing needs of the State’s homeless population while guiding them to self-sufficiency, and oversees a network of transitional homeless shelters to ensure shelters’ compliance with applicable rules and regulations.

For 2018, Local Districts submitted $2 billion in gross claims to the Office for homeless housing reimbursement.

Key Findings

  • The Office is not providing adequate oversight of homeless shelters to ensure that conditions are safe. We observed conditions that pose significant health and safety risks to the State’s homeless population.
    • We visited 159 homeless shelters in spring 2019 and determined that 96 (60 percent) were in generally unsatisfactory condition. Twenty-one of those 96 shelters had been visited on prior audits and had been determined to be in poor condition at that time.
    • Serious violations noted during recent visits included structural damage, mold, vermin and bug infestations, excessive garbage in rooms, and missing or malfunctioning smoke detectors.
  • We identified discrepancies between the Office’s shelter inventory and Local Districts’ lists of facilities, and the Office was unaware of 35 shelters that received homeless resident referrals from Local Districts.
  • Required plans designed to help homeless individuals and families secure permanent housing are not being completed timely or at all.
  • We encountered transparency and cooperation issues that led to delays in receiving information, scheduling meetings, and performing shelter site visits.

Key Recommendations

  • Improve policies and procedures for using inspection checklists and monitoring shelter violations.
  • Take steps to ensure shelter violations are corrected, which may include partially or fully withholding reimbursements for homeless services or reconsidering provider eligibility in the homeless shelter system in accordance with applicable regulations.
  • Review required plans to help homeless individuals and families secure permanent housing.
  • Improve transparency and cooperation to maintain good governance.

Brian Reilly

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Brian Reilly
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