Homeless Moved From Rotondo Site
Town workers took down a steel structure being used by homeless men for shelter behind the Huntington Station library in early December, town officials and a Family Service League executive have confirmed.
A corrugated steel recycling building on the former Rotondo Brothers property, located off of New York Avenue behind the Station branch of the Huntington Public Library, posed a safety hazard, town spokesman A.J. Carter said.
“There was no electricity, no running water and no heat. It was a safety hazard to have people living in there,” he said.
Carter said Public Safety officers are down at the property, which was previously used by the Rotondo Brothers carting company as a waste transfer station, regularly to move along homeless people who are trespassing on the approximately 2-acre tract.
Homeless people also took shelter on the property last winter, Family Service League Vice-President Peggy Boyd said Tuesday.
“There was some kind of structure in there that the town was taking down, and they called up because we believe people may be staying in there,” Boyd said.
Before the town tore down the recycling building in early December, a bilingual Public Safety officer was accompanied by a Family Service League representative. The public safety officer gave the men a deadline to gather their belongings and move, while the Family Service League rep told the men of available resources, Boyd said.
“They [the town] called me and said, ‘There’s some guys back there. We want to make sure they know about resources’,” she added.
A Spanish-language flier posted on the property’s fence includes phone numbers for the Huntington Interfaith Homeless Initiative (HI-HI), the Northport VA Medical Center and other resources for the homeless. The town acquired the land through eminent domain and will complete payments for it to former owner Dejana Industries with a $1,287,500 payment March 31.
Four years ago, in January 2010 and again later that November, town officials and Suffolk County police swept a 26.6-acre wooded property on East Fifth Street after homeless day laborers set up a makeshift tent city on the land. The encampments were torn down twice. The land is now the site for AvalonBay Communities’ 379-home Huntington Station development.
Like the Avalon property, the Rotodno property is being eyed as a key parcel in plans for Huntington Station revitalization.
Demand for HI-HI ‘Very High’
So far this winter season, demand for overnight emergency housing has been high.
According to Boyd, anywhere from 17-42 people have taken advantage of the HI-HI program, a network of 30-35 Town of Huntington congregations that partner to provide a hot dinner, breakfast and a bag lunch, overnight shelter and health services for the homeless starting Dec. 1.
“The numbers for HI-HI were very high this season,” she said. Compare that to November 2010, when the Avalon property encampment was cleared – at that time, officials said about 30 people on average took shelter through the program.
Boyd said the program has resulted in a bond between volunteers and the homeless, as well as a close partnership with town public safety officials.
“They typically call us and Family Service League will reach out with them on the site and try to share with the person their resources that exist,” Boyd said.
The homeless men and women themselves are also an important resource in finding encampments and boarded-up homes the homeless are taking shelter in.
“There was a home recently in Huntington Station that someone had been staying in, and the town called us and we were able to intervene,” Boyd said.