Fred Mogul, Reporter, WNYC News
Fred Mogul has been covering healthcare and medicine for WNYC since 2002.
After two weeks in special needs evacuation shelters, hundreds of adult home residents are hoping to move to longer-term housing — and Sandy may be speeding up the trend of moving mentally disabled adults out of institutions and into independent-living arrangements.
Well before Sandy, the state began soliciting proposals from landlords and developers to provide a thousand housing units for current adult home residents, as part of a larger movement to increase their independence.
Since Sandy forced hundreds of people with mental illness into evacuation shelters, state health workers have been interviewing them with an eye toward providing some of them with permanent new homes in apartments.
"We think it could serve a good number of residents who may be ready and want to move into more independent housing right now," said Geoff Lieberman, executive director of the Coalition of the Institutionalized, Aged and Disabled.
But that's longer term. Lieberman says some adult home residents have been relocated from shelters to interim housing to ill effect.
At one place, he said residents have reported tripling up in rooms and living in cots in lobby spaces.
Advocates continue to question the handling of adult home residents before, during and after evacuation.
Jota Borgmann, an attorney for MFY Legal Services, said it's not clear why city and state health officials believed "sheltering in place" was appropriate for people in the main evacuation area, when authorities were making such forceful statements encouraging everyone else to get out.
Borgmann and others said many residents lost crucial possessions — ranging from personal identification to medications to motorized wheelchairs — either in the initial move to higher floors to escape flooding or the eventual evacuation, after buildings lost power.
"Many residents came to emergency shelters in robes or pajamas and had no other personal items," Borgmann said.
Many family members have complained of difficulty in tracking down loved ones. Even for those who have been evacuated to other adult homes, rather than to city shelters, there have been problems, Lieberman said.
"We're concerned about reports from residents that they’ve been tripled up in rooms and living on cots in lobby spaces," he said.
State officials were unavailable for comment.