Homelessness on LI: A 'crisis situation'

MASTIC - When Long Island families lose their homes over financial hardships, they're often bounced around between emergency shelters at the mercy of social service agencies until they can get back on their feet. Debra White-Ponder says she and her husband and their two children lost their Mastic home back in October. Since then, they've been staying in a one-bedroom motel room provided by Suffolk County's Department of Social Services (DSS). The family is one of 500 in Suffolk that are getting emergency shelters from the county's DSS. Another 150 families in Nassau are staying in similar shelters, officials say. Suffolk DSS Commissioner Greg Blass says the average homeless family spends 4-6 months in such emergency shelters, financed by taxpayers. Blass says the county finds permanent homes for 30-40 families each month, but that's not enough. "We need to do much more, there's no question about it," he says. Newly minted County Executive Steve Bellone (D-Suffolk) says his plan for dealing with homelessness is to "address the underlying issues" by working with social services, health services and law enforcement agencies.

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