Social Services Deputy Director Kim Sawyer yesterday insisted that officials are trying to ensure shelter residents are as comfortable as possible after complaints about the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium’s conditions surfaced this week.
“We are doing whatever we can to make it comfortable for them, and we do meet weekly to look at what adjustments we need to make,” Sawyer said.
Recently, she said, there was a concern about garbage collection.
She explained that the company tasked with the job now collects twice a day instead of once a day.
“We are not there to make them uncomfortable. We try. We may have a difficulty catering to each individual need, but we try to see how comfortable we can make them,” said Sawyer.
Multiple shelter residents told The Nassau Guardian on Tuesday that the food they’re provided makes them sick.
Asked to respond to those claims, Sawyer said she hasn’t heard any reports on the issue.
On Monday, residents also indicated that there is no privacy and facilities are cramped since residents from multiple shelters now reside at the gym.
“The shelters have no more numbers in them than we initially started,” Sawyer said.
“We are consolidating because our manpower is being stretched. At one time, we had over 1,000 people there. Now we have 700 people.
“Each area has a maximum capacity. So, each tent has a capacity of 150 persons. We are not at capacity in any of the areas that we’re currently operating.”
However, she added that she understands their concerns, as it’s not easy to live in that kind of environment for an extended amount of time.
Responding to claims of unclean facilities, Sawyer said that there are people in place to clean the facilities daily, but residents also should take responsibility to clean up after themselves.
She said: “The stadium provides staff to clean, but we also have encouraged the [shelter residents] to participate in the cleaning of their environment.”