The Bay Shore community has been hyper-focused on the issue of homelessness recently, as the number of people without a place to stay has risen and there have been multiple incidents of individuals being disruptive in the downtown area.
At the Bay Shore Chamber of Commerce meeting last month, the issue was discussed in detail with business owners saying individuals are sleeping in storefronts and drawing customers away.
“This is my new mission,” said Bay Shore Chamber of Commerce president Donna Periconi on the issue of homelessness in the area. “I am stopping at nothing for this.”
According to Periconi, the homeless have been found taking tips from on-street dining tables and preventing shoppers and diners from entering businesses. They approach them in parking lots and on sidewalks with a “frightening demeanor.”
Bay Shore Restaurant Committee chairman Mike McElwee, owner of Local Burger, said the issue has been ongoing, with a spike in the last three to four months.
“Not necessarily homeless, but vagrants and beggar, knocking on windows and coming up to cars,” he said, explaining that it seems to be the same half-a-dozen people. Thankfully, he said, “Everybody is working on this together.”
In a statement, Suffolk County Police Department said they are aware of the issue and actively working to address it.
“Officers have met with representatives from the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, the Bay Shore Chamber of Commerce and private organizations, including Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, Services for the Underserved and United Veterans Beacon House, about the issue,” the statement said. “Third Precinct COPE officers join DSS outreach teams to regularly go into the community to meet with homeless people and offer services to those in need.”
The Town of Islip has also lent a hand implementing street lightings for safety.
“Town of Islip officials have reached out to the County, asking that several bus shelters in the hamlet of Bay Shore be removed, as these shelters have become a magnet for the homeless and illegal activity,” said an Islip Town spokesperson. “The Supervisor has also met with the Department of Social Services, Suffolk County Legislators and the Bay Shore Restaurant Association in an effort to explore solutions to this growing problem.”
The issue was also brought up at the Brightwaters Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 4. The Suffolk County police officer at the meeting said they are limited in their capacity to help and can only offer homeless individuals assistance. However, he said, most don’t accept the help.
Back in 2017, the Village of Patchogue implemented a new code to limit aggressive panhandling. The legislation, according to village attorney Brian Egan, was intended to protect people from threatening, intimidating or harassing behavior, while also keeping public places safe for all members of the community.
However, according to Periconi, because Bay Shore is not a village, they cannot do something similar and must find alternative options. The chamber plans to continue the discussion during their regular monthly meetings.