DHS plays a ‘shell game’ with sex offenders as agency continues to dodge questions over transparency

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

NEW YORK CITY -- Earlier this week, in front of this New York City family homeless shelter in the Bronx, PIX11 News was delivering troubling news about one of Kevin and Tori Reeves’ fellow shelter residents.

Like every other homeless family we have met over the last several weeks, she cannot believe New York City Department of Homeless Services officials would knowingly place a convicted sex offender in a family homeless shelter, which obviously houses children.

Two weeks ago we revealed Kevin and Tori’s fellow shelter resident, and this sex offender were both living in the Pan Am Hotel family homeless shelter in Queens, DHS officials told us they no longer have sex offenders living there.

Since that time DHS Commissioner Steven Banks went on the record according to Avella announcing they have come to an agreement on, "a solution so that no homeless shelters will be shared by Level 2 and 3 sex offenders."

PIX11 News reporters Mario Diaz and Jay Dow were shocked to learn that DHS simply transferred this Level 3 - or the most dangerous type of sex offender from one family shelter - to the same kind of facility - just in a different borough.

PIX11 News also identified at least eight other Level 2 and 3 sex offenders living inside New York City family homeless shelters.

Several homeless mothers expressed their shock at the city continuing the practice after learning it was still be allowed by DHS and its officials.

The City argues it is legally bound to find shelter for those offenders, even when they are with their families.

State Senator Jeffrey Klein, who has been working on this issue for years, describes this policy as a "ticking time bomb." It also comes nearly 18 months after the city reached out to him directly, informing him they were making a pledge to change the policy.

Transparency seems to be a word more difficult to practice than to pronounce for DHS. They have touted it several times in the past, but during a period in which there has been a spike in families staying at shelters and corporate homeless hotels, the city is not disclosing homeless hotels to the paying public.

The city argues it is against the law to disclose the exact location of a shelter - citing client confidentiality.

But State Senator Klein says the public has a right to know, "We can actually require that hotels actually in the sense of transparency actually post they are actually a temporary sharer as well as a motel."

All of this happening on Banks watch. In fact this is indeed the same Steven Banks who, back in the mid-1980s and early 90s worked as a lead attorney for the Legal Aid Society.

Back then, Banks was an outspoken and frequent critic of City Hall’s homeless policies, including its reliance on homeless hotels.

In 1991 , the New York Times published several telling quotes from attorney Steven Banks on this topic, starting with this one from 1991, in which Banks calls the city’s "commercial hotel alternative poorly conceived."

Banks went on to add, "For the city to be using the Yellow Pages to find commercial hotels for families flies in the face of everything we know about how to solve this problem."

Banks, who actually sued the city for using welfare hotels, was also quoted saying, "a hotel is not a home for a family with children."

Yet the Mayor's Office of Operations indicates that the number of hotels used to house the homeless has risen since Commissioner Banks was tapped by Mayor de Blasio to replace previous Commissioner Gilbert Taylor.

In recent months, PIX11 News has also repeatedly shown security lapses in homeless hotels, which Commissioner Banks finally acknowledged on our air.

Finally, there is the shell game, as Senator Klein describes it, with "Level 2 and 3" sex offenders being transferred by city officials from one family homeless shelter to another.

Homeless families, including Kevin and Tori Reeves, who is six months pregnant, say they have had enough, "Do your job now before you have to go to the next victim and say I'm sorry."