Although the issue of sex offenders staying at local motels has caused a stir, a meeting at the County Office Building has uncovered a larger problem.

During a meeting with the Common Council and the Board of Legislators, County Executive Anthony Picente said the problem involves a number of homeless people that sometimes outnumbers available shelters.

Councilman Jerome McKinsey says the county cannot be blamed for subsidizing sex offenders because they have an obligation to provide shelter.

"The real issue is providing services to the homeless. We have a shortage of shelter space and the county has to go to local hotels and ask them to house the homeless. That's the umbrella, is that it's under the homeless."

Gino Geruntino, WIBX
Gino Geruntino, WIBX

County Executive Anthony Picente agreed, saying sex offenders aren't the only people taking part in the county's voucher system. Others, including families, veterans and the unemployed, visit the Department of Social Services to receive assistance and a temporary place to stay.

"The issue still centers around the homeless and homelessness and how we can address it in a better manner," Picente said. "Some of it is economic, but some of it also runs in terms of other societal issues."

Another problem arises based on the criteria shelters use when accepting people. There are no shelters in Oneida County that accept sex offenders. Many will also not accept a person if they are an arsonist or involved with drugs or alcohol. Those stipulations make placing offenders in temporary housing that much more difficult.

Picente also noted that because the sex offender issue has gotten so large, other homeless people are being rejected from motels.

"We're dealing with families that are the most vulnerable in terms of that population that do need assistance, and we're penalizing all the homeless for a small percentage," Picente said. "That's what we have to deal with."

But, even when sex offenders have been housed in local motels, Department of Social Services Commissioner Lucille Soldato says there have been no incidents so far involving those offenders.

The County says it is working with the City of Utica to try and find a solution, but the answer is going to take time. Picente does say that this is an issue that is dealt with in every city and that his office and the City of Utica will continue to deal with it the best they can.

More From WIBX 950