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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Homeless Outreach Program at the Metro-North Railroad


Issued: February 21, 2019
Link to full audit report 2018-S-36

Purpose
To determine whether the Metro-North Railroad (Metro-North) has appropriate oversight and monitoring controls over its homeless outreach services contract and whether Metro-North has met its goal in assisting homeless clients to appropriate shelters off Metro-North property. Our audit covered the period June 16, 2017 to September 30, 2018.

Background
With an annual ridership of nearly 87 million customers – and an average of 298,300 customers daily – Metro-North is the second busiest commuter railroad in the United States. As of December 2017, Metro-North had 123 stations (not including Grand Central Terminal) distributed in seven counties in New York State (Bronx, Dutchess, New York [Manhattan], Orange, Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester) and two counties in Connecticut (New Haven and Fairfield). The presence of the homeless at Metro-North stations is a growing concern for Metro-North customers and staff, and sometimes presents law enforcement issues. In an effort to better address the homeless issue and to assist the homeless, in June 2017, Metro-North entered into a five-year contract (totaling $2,142,399) with Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC) to provide homeless outreach services (Contract). Pursuant to the Contract, BRC is responsible for carrying out regular visits to the Metro-North stations to observe, record, and engage in homeless outreach activity. BRC is required to produce Daily Activity Reports, Weekly Reports, Monthly Reports, and Annual Reports related to its established performance measures, and is required to submit these reports to Metro-North officials. BRC is also responsible for entering the data from its Daily Activity Reports into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) Homeless Outreach Program (HOP) database.

Key Findings

  • Despite the requirement under the Contract, Metro-North has not developed any quantifiable performance measures for the BRC Contract and, as a result, has no basis for determining whether BRC’s outreach services are meeting expectations for assisting homeless clients.
  • The homeless outreach data BRC reported was not accurate or complete, and Metro-North does not have a process in place to verify reported data. In fact, Metro-North did not even have access to the MTA HOP database that BRC uses to report the results of its outreach.
  • Based in part on our observations, we determined BRC is providing only limited outreach services, which is one of the primary responsibilities under its contract. For example, we found that, on average, outreach workers spend only about 21 percent of their time providing actual outreach services (compared with 43 percent of time spent in their office and 36 percent of time spent traveling between stations) and, for the period September 5, 2017 to July 31, 2018, BRC only visited 27 of Metro-North’s 123 stations for homeless observations.

Key Recommendations

  • Develop and establish quantifiable performance measures for the Contract.
  • Develop and establish internal controls to ensure the reported homeless outreach data is complete and accurate, and use the data to make informed decisions.
  • Monitor outreach workers’ performance to ensure they are providing a sufficient level of
    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