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Jun 30, 2010 10:11 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Homeless sex offenders sue over trailer conditions

Jun 30, 2010 10:11 AM

Three homeless sex offenders are suing Suffolk County and demanding the installation of showers at the county’s trailer in Riverside, which serves as an emergency shelter for up to 18 homeless offenders each night.

The Empire Justice Center, a not-for-profit law firm working on behalf of Carlos Rivera, Joseph DiBella and Christopher Washington, filed the Article 78 petition in New York State Supreme Court in Central Islip on June 16. The lawsuit seeks to get the Suffolk County Department of Social Services (DSS), which is responsible for finding housing for homeless sex offenders after they are released from prison, to comply with a February ruling stating that it must provide showers and adequate hot water at the trailer, which is located near the Suffolk County Jail. The litigation also demands that DSS officials help the homeless offenders find permanent housing.

County officials have until Friday, July 2 to respond to the petition.

“They are being housed by DSS in a trailer that doesn’t have minimally adequate services for living,” said Linda Hassberg, a senior attorney with the Empire Justice Center, of her clients. The center has offices in Central Islip.

Roland Hampson, a spokesman for Gregory Blass, the commissioner of Suffolk’s Department of Social Services, said he couldn’t comment on ongoing litigation.

Mr. Hampson did note, however, that the department did make attempts to comply with the lawsuit’s demands. In May, the county moved a new trailer, one equipped with showers, to the site of another homeless sex offender trailer off Old Country Road in Westhampton. But Southampton Town officials, outraged after the new trailer was moved to the site overnight and without warning, successfully secured a restraining order that forbids anyone from using the trailer until the courts decide on a joint lawsuit filed against the county by Southampton and Riverhead towns.

The two towns sued Suffolk County last year over the placement of the Riverside trailer, arguing that it is too close to places where children congregate, including the Riverhead Public Library. Southampton officials also complained that both of the county’s homeless sex offender trailers are located in their township, arguing that the burden should be shared by all Suffolk taxpayers.

The Riverside Jail complex is hooked up to Riverhead Town’s sewage district and town officials there will not allow the county to connect that trailer’s showers to its sewer line, according to Mr. Hampson.

“We know none of this is easy,” said Don Friedman, another attorney with the Empire Justice Center.

He acknowledged that the DSS has made arrangements so the homeless sex offenders can take showers at other county-run facilities, but those services have been sporadic and not good enough for the offenders to maintain basic health and hygiene.

The petition was filed two weeks ago at the request of Mr. Rivera, 30, who has been staying at the Riverside trailer since September 2008. Mr. DiBella, 52, and Christopher Washington, 26, have both been staying at the same trailer since March 12. All three men are level 3 sex offenders—the highest level that a released offender can be—and have the trailer registered as their home address, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice.

Mr. Rivera, along with two other unnamed individuals, requested the Departmental Fair Hearing, during which an administrative law judge listens to complaints made against social services departments, in August 2009, alleging that Suffolk’s trailers are inadequate and that the offenders were not getting proper assistance to find permanent housing. The hearing was held in October and the decision was handed down in February, according to the copy of the Article 78 petition.

“No showers have been installed at [the trailer] and hot water is still grossly inadequate for the number of people forced to sleep on the premises,” the petition reads. “Petitioners have not received any assistance from DSS in the development of independent living plans designed to obtain permanent housing.”

The trailers that house the homeless sex offenders have been a contentious issue this year. Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy announced in January that the trailers would be closed and DSS would transition to a voucher system in which offenders would be given $90 a day to find housing and a meal on their own. That measure was blocked after the Suffolk County Legislature refused to increase the department’s petty cash fund to finance the program.

In May, the legislature moved to end the voucher system and compel DSS to come up with a new housing plan that would evenly spread out the homeless sex offender population throughout the county. Mr. Levy vetoed that legislation, and the legislature overrode that attempted block.

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They should be sent to Siberia to live in a tent!!!! As far as i am concerned they are getting treated wat to good and all humanly rights should be stripped from them.
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Jul 3, 10 6:54 PM
Why does the county have ANY obligation at all to provide housing for them?
By Sag Native (54), East Hampton on Jul 4, 10 10:30 PM
i know where these animals can take their hot showers everyday- a new york state prison . and thank you liberal idiot lawyers for wasting more taxpayer money with your lawsuits- you're really doing a lot for "society"
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Jul 5, 10 9:48 PM
Just castrate them, and be done with it.

That, or sleep apnea will kill any man's libido...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 7, 10 2:45 AM
Why Siberia?? Hmmm I'm sure the people in Siberia would not want them either.. Try again!
By nylajen (8), Bayshore on Jul 7, 10 1:04 PM
By CHERI (12), HAMPTON BAYS on Jul 7, 10 5:16 PM