Westchester County is asking the White Plains Common Council for a Government Use Permit that would allow it to house homeless families when it has no more space to do so.
Mark Weingarten, an attorney representing the Mount Hope AME Zion Church, located at 65 Lake St., told the Common Council on Jan. 27 that Westchester County is seeking to lease the second floor of commercial property owned by the church for an emergency overnight overflow homeless shelter for families with children. The site would be used as shelter typically from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m., he said. There would be five rooms with no more than 16 persons at one time, he said.
“It does not adversely impact” the neighborhood, Weingarten said. “It promotes the mission of the church to help the needy.”
Councilwoman Jennifer Puja asked how often the county has an emergency in terms of not having enough beds for the homeless. Weingarten said he did not know how often that occurs, but emergency is defined by the county to mean they have no more space to house the homeless on a particular night. Weingarten said he would bring a representative from the county to a future Common Council meeting to answer members’ questions.
Puja asked if an emergency was declared by the county due to lack of space for the homeless if there would be a preference for city residents to be temporarily housed at the church-owned property. The Rev. Dr. Gregory Robeson Smith, the senior pastor of Mount Hope AME Zion Church, said the county has a process for dealing with an emergency. The county would be responsible for bringing the homeless to the facility, he said.
Smith said the church would not run the shelter. The space being sought by the county is currently not being used by the church, he said.
Councilman Justin Brasch thanked the church for helping the needy and said the city should be willing to help the homeless families as proposed by the county.
Council President Nadine Hunt-Robinson said she also supported the emergency shelter proposal and asked for a representative from the county to come to the next Common Council meeting to answer questions.