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Cuomo mandate will help ensure that homeless shelters are safe and hygienic

The inspection of about a dozen Buffalo homeless shelters should be met with wide open doors and cooperative spirit. And not just because the governor ordered it but because it is the right approach.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo mandated local and state officials to start inspecting shelters. Last month, he announced that the shelters would be examined because of concerns about safety and conditions. The focus is on New York City and Buffalo, and for good reason – those cities have the two largest concentrations of shelters, according to the governor.

The inspections should reduce or eliminate some of the worst-case scenarios that can play out when someone has nowhere else to go.

There have been serious safety problems, highlighted by a 62-year-old former public school teacher who was found late last month fatally stabbed in the neck in a New York City shelter.

Some in Buffalo have said that they, too, fear injury or lost possessions. News reporter Charity Vogel interviewed some of these very people the governor is talking about in her Jan. 18 piece, “Shelter can be cold comfort when homeless forced to go: Some street people raise objections to governor’s winter mandate.”

In Vogel’s recent article on inspections planned at 12 shelters, Chris Cammarano, a senior volunteer at Little Portion Friary in Buffalo, talked about the challenges – people with drug and alcohol problems, mental health issues and conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Those who find themselves in shelters can also find themselves on the wrong end of an argument, or at risk of being sexually abused.

Shelter operators, just like Buffalo City Mission Executive Director Stuart L. Harper, should be in agreement with the inspections. As Harper indicated, accountability to the public is important, and that means making sure the shelter is clean and the staffing levels are sufficient.

Buffalo Comptroller Mark J.F. Schroeder will be in charge of the inspections of the Buffalo shelters, which will include paperwork and in-person evaluations. Schroeder and his staff will undoubtedly do a meticulous job. Inspectors will be looking at cleanliness, kitchen appliances, heating systems, furniture and beds for residents.

Until homelessness is eradicated, there will always be a need for shelter. Inspections will better ensure that they are safe and clean places to go.