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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Homeless Outreach Program at the Long Island Rail Road


Issued: January 16, 2019
Link to full audit report 2018-S-35

Purpose
To determine whether the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) has appropriate oversight and monitoring controls over its homeless outreach services contract, and whether the LIRR has met its goal in assisting homeless clients to appropriate shelters off MTA property. Our audit covered the period of November 1, 2015 to September 30, 2018.

Background
The LIRR is the oldest railroad still operating under its original name, and the busiest commuter railroad in North America, carrying an average of 301,000 customers each weekday on 735 daily trains. As of August 2018, the LIRR had 124 stations on 11 different branches, including City Terminal Zone. The presence of the homeless at LIRR stations is a growing concern for LIRR customers and
staff, and sometimes presents law enforcement issues. In an effort to better address the issue and to assist homeless individuals as much as possible, the LIRR entered into a contract with Services for the UnderServed (SUS) to provide homeless outreach services (Contract). The Contract was for a period of three years beginning November 2015 through October 2018 totaling $512,498. In November 2018, the LIRR extended the Contract for an additional two years for $347,793, resulting in a five-year total of $860,291. As part of its Contract, SUS is responsible for performing outreach services by carrying out regular visits to the LIRR stations in Nassau and Suffolk counties and to observe, record, and report homeless outreach activity.

Key Findings

  • The LIRR has not developed any performance standards in its Contract with SUS, and as a result, it has no basis for determining whether or not SUS’ homeless outreach services are meeting expectations for assisting homeless clients.
  • The homeless outreach data reported by SUS to the LIRR contained inaccuracies and was not complete, and the LIRR did not have a process in place to verify data. In fact, LIRR officials did not even have access to the MTA system used by vendors to report the results of their outreach efforts.
  • Based in part on our observations, we found that SUS is failing to assist homeless people to the extent possible under its Contract responsibilities; in some cases, SUS is not conducting activities that would enable it to connect with and assist homeless clients. Consequently, LIRR’s homeless clients are not receiving the services they need. During one unannounced visit, we observed the SUS outreach team drive up to a train station parking lot and sit in the vehicle for approximately three minutes prior to leaving. The team neither walked the platforms nor visited the station waiting room. Immediately after the outreach team left, we visited the station office, walked the platforms, and subsequently identified two apparent homeless clients. However, we found not only did the SUS outreach team indicate they had encountered and referred one homeless client at this station during this same visit, but they also included the client’s name. We question how the outreach team made this referral without leaving their vehicle.

Key Recommendations

  • Develop and establish performance measures to be included in the Monthly Reports.
  • Develop and establish internal controls to ensure the reported homeless outreach data is complete and accurate, and use the available data to make informed decisions.
  • Analyze the available outreach data, and provide input to SUS when preparing the Outreach Schedule.
  • Monitor the performance of SUS to ensure it is providing satisfactory outreach services.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest
Homeless Shelters and Homelessness in New York State – An Overview, Exclusive of New York City (2016-D-3)
Metropolitan Transportation Authority – Long Island Rail Road: Management of Unexpected Delays and Events During Winter 2017-18 (2017-S-37)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Brian Reilly
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236