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Picente holds meeting with council members about motel voucher issue

By GARY LIBERATORE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente says a lot of misinformation is floating around about the county's homeless voucher program and he wants to clear it up.

Starting at 5 p.m., Picente held a meeting with members of Utica's Common Council on the matter.

The topic of the voucher system has been in the news the past several weeks, prompting the meeting, held on the 10th floor of the Oneida County Office Building.

Picente said the voucher program is a very valuable tool and that when a homeless person comes to the county for assistance, legally, the Department of Social Services is obligated to help them find housing.

If there is not any room in area shelters, the county does ask area motels if they will accept vouchers and get reimbursed for having a homeless person or family stay for a night or two, until the county can find them more permanent housing.

A big issue, which has been well documented, is that the county cannot notify the motels whether the person is a convicted sex offender.

The Super-8, the Scottish Inn and the Happy Journey Motel all have accepted vouchers in the past. However, recently, the owners of the Scottish Inn and Happy Journey motel have said they will not accept any vouchers from the county anymore.

The Super-8 had no comment.

The county executive says there are misconceptions about the voucher program floating around that he wants to clear up.

"The biggest continues to be that in terms of the sex offender, these are people who belong in some other community and we should move them back," Picente said. "That's not the way it works and the misconception is that the county goes and waits at the prison doors to provide housing for criminals, sex offenders."

A protest was held Sunday at the entrance to the New York State Thruway in Utica, right near the motels previously mentioned.

Two of those protesting were Utica Common Council members Jim Zecca and Frank Vescera, both of whom were invited to the meeting by Picente and were planning on attending.

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