Queens community concerned about sex offenders at shelter

The Pan American Hotel on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst is not for tourists. It has become a city shelter for homeless families. Now the neighbors are worried dangerous sex offenders may be living inside.

Recently two sex offenders classified as level 3, considered the most serious and likely to re-offend, were living there. The Elmhurst United Community organization found out by checking the shelter's address in the sex offender registry.

Organizer Anna Orjeula told Fox 5 that is not acceptable because one of them was a child molester. She said children live in the shelter and schools are located nearby. She helped organize her neighbors to speak out and demand that the city live up to an earlier promise to keep them out of the shelter.

But a DHS spokesperson said: "While the Department of Homeless Services did state publicly in early 2015 that it planned to change in its policy, that change couldn't be implemented because it would have conflicted with state law and court orders."

State Sen. Tony Avella said he isn't buying the explanation. He acknowledged that state law requires, when possible, to keep families together even if it includes a sex offender. But he said the "when possible" part of the law means there is a lot of leeway.

Local leaders told us this isn't their only concern. They believe the city can do much better for the homeless families than housing them in single rooms with no kitchens at a price tag of $3,400 a month.