Beacon man finds housing after eviction, but barely

Len Warner and Donald Van Voorhees had crossed paths many times on Warner’s morning walk with his dog down Main Street in Beacon, but it wasn’t until last summer that they had their first serious conversation. 

Donald Van Voorhees
There weren’t many options for Donald Van Voorhees, who is 74 and disabled, when the lease on his Beacon apartment was not renewed. (Photo by Una Hoppe)

In July, Van Voorhees shared the eviction papers he’d recently been served. Six months later, the connection between the two men kept Van Voorhees from being homeless. 

After a local law that made it more difficult to evict renters was struck down by a City Court judge in November, Van Voorhees was given until Jan. 31 to leave the studio apartment where he had lived for 23 years. Vinit Jobanputra, who purchased 455-457 Main St. in 2022 for $1.5 million, said in court filings that the building was in desperate need of repairs, with considerable water leakage and structural issues. 

He informed Van Voorhees in February 2023 that his lease would not be renewed when it expired on May 31. After renovations, Jobanputra said he hoped to obtain market-based rent for the building’s six apartments. “From what I understand, it would not be possible” for Van Voorhees to pay that, he told the court. 

That left Van Voorhees, who is 74, disabled and without a cellphone or internet access, with few options. He remained in the apartment while his eviction was challenged in court. At the same time, Warner, who is a member of the Beacon Planning Board, searched for a new place for Van Voorhees to live. 

“None of us can just drop everything we’re doing, but this was dire,” Warner said this week. “I was afraid he was going to go into an abyss and be at the mercy of the shelter system.”

By mid-January, the search had become desperate. Van Voorhees had been paying $850 per month for his apartment. Federal housing vouchers for those with lower incomes, known as Section 8, covered about $500, and Van Voorhees used his Social Security payments and workers’ compensation he receives for an injury suffered on the job 40 years ago for the rest. Any new apartment would need to be on the ground floor and within walking distance of a bank and grocery store. 

The Beacon Housing Authority, which manages Van Voorhees’ federal benefits, has no immediate openings. Highland Meadows and Meadow Ridge, two complexes on Matteawan Road for lower-income seniors, have waiting lists of up to two years. There’s an even longer wait for apartments available through PathStone, an organization that promotes social justice and self-sufficiency. 

With a shelter in Poughkeepsie seemingly Van Voorhees’ only option, an email came on Jan. 29 from Nick Page, a Dutchess County legislator whose district includes three wards in Beacon and whose uncle, Joe Donovan, owns the Hudson Todd development company. An older tenant had died and a ground-floor apartment would be available on Main Street on Feb. 9, he said. 

While Warner coordinated paperwork with Dutchess County and an apartment inspection with the Housing Authority, Van Voorhees stayed for eight days at the Rodeway Inn in Arlington, a hotel where the county Department of Community and Family Services (DCFS) rents rooms when its shelters are full. 

There was another obstacle. The night before leaving his apartment, Van Voorhees — who uses an oxygen tank and takes more than a dozen prescription medications — called 911. He suffers from edema, and as fluid built up in his legs, they had swollen so much that he couldn’t walk. 

The Beacon Volunteer Ambulance Corps took him to Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh while Warner frantically tried to keep the situation from spiraling out of control. “I woke up the next morning at 4:30 with my heart in my throat,” Warner said. “It was on me now to save his stuff.” 

Unbeknownst to Warner, Van Voorhees had returned to his apartment just before midnight. His DCFS case manager was scheduled to pick him up in Beacon the next day (Jan. 31). He could only bring what would fit in the case manager’s car with him to the hotel, so he had stuffed clothing into garbage bags and was prepared to bring toiletries, medication and a few other essentials. In his haste, Van Voorhees forgot to pack a fork, but said later that, luckily, there was a spoon inside a cup that he brought. 

Warner took Van Voorhees’ television, a folding table and chairs, a suitcase full of clothes and some collectibles to a storage facility. There was no room for his easy chair, dresser or bed, so they were left behind. “You realize that if someone has to leave their place, if they don’t have a way to take their stuff with them, they’re not only going to lose their home, they’re also going to lose 90 percent of their belongings,” Warner said. 

After eight days at the Rodeway Inn, Van Voorhees returned to Beacon, where Warner helped him move into his new apartment. Neighbors donated a dresser and a truck to move it, while Warner’s wife was able to find a free bed on Facebook Marketplace. Warner also bought him several camping chairs at Brett’s True Value. 

With his benefits, Van Voorhees’ share of the rent at the new place is $394 per month. He credits a “community effort” with keeping him on his feet but is particularly grateful to Warner. “I’ve never had a friend like that,” he said on Monday (Feb. 12). “If I was living on the street, I’d probably be dead.”

But Warner, drawing on his Planning Board experience, observed that, despite this success story, there are others who aren’t as fortunate. “Every time a building gets demolished or renovated in Beacon, it means we have that many fewer affordable units,” he said. “You can’t get a place because there’s nothing available. Somebody had to die for him to get his apartment.”

What Resources Are Available?

The Dutchess County Department of Community and Family Services (DCFS) provides emergency shelter and other services for people who are homeless, including in a building known as PODs next to the Dutchess County Jail that was meant to house inmates, and at shelters monitored by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and the county. 

These include county-funded shelters designated for families and operated by agencies such as Hudson River Housing, Community Housing Innovation and Pathways. 

DCFS contracts with hotels and motels to provide temporary shelter to those facing unusual circumstances or when no other shelters are available. There is also a shelter that accommodates victims of domestic violence and their children. In addition, the VA provides emergency housing for veterans.

In 2023, DCFS provided emergency housing to 759 adults and 579 children, increases of 17 percent and 41 percent, respectively, over 2022. The numbers do not include services provided at the PODs, which sheltered 149 people per night, on average, in 2023. Seventeen people, or 3 percent of the county’s current homeless population, are from Beacon. 

If a person becomes homeless, DCFS will determine which services are needed and which shelter is best. If the shelters are full, the person will be housed at the PODs or at a hotel or motel. If a family becomes homeless and the family shelter is full, it will be placed in a hotel or motel; the location will be as close as possible to the children’s school.

If a person’s income is below the federal poverty line, he or she will qualify for temporary housing assistance. The county’s program is designed to provide room and board as well as services to move an individual or family into stable housing and increase self-sufficiency. An individual or family without a home can receive temporary assistance until they find stable housing.

The stays at emergency shelters are limited to 90 days, after which the goal is to move to transitional or permanent housing. However, the lack of housing makes that challenging, and many people remain beyond 90 days. 

People who have been served with eviction papers should call 211 for a referral. For those who are being evicted because of overdue rent, Dutchess County under some circumstances may be able to pay the debt to keep the tenant in the apartment. 

Before the pandemic, DCFS Commissioner Sabrina Jaar Marzouka said she typically saw seasonal trends, with more people needing services in the winter. During the pandemic and since a state moratorium on pandemic-related evictions ended on Jan. 15, 2022, the need has remained at that “winter” level, she said. 

Marzouka called the lack of affordable housing options “absolutely the biggest challenge” facing agencies like hers, nationwide and in Dutchess. “We would be looking at much lower numbers” if there were more housing options, she said. 

The Beacon Housing Authority does not offer emergency housing, but it has opened three waiting lists for the first time since late 2022. The first list is for “tenant-based” vouchers — which allow a tenant to find an affordable apartment within the boundaries of the Beacon City School District. (It is illegal for landlords to refuse to rent to people based on their source of income, such as vouchers.)

The other two lists are “project-based” and offer vouchers that may be used either at the Forrestal Heights or Hamilton Fish Plaza complexes, which the Housing Authority manages, or for select apartments at the Tompkins Terrace development. Applications may be picked up at the BHA office at 1 Forrestal Heights in Beacon. The waiting lists will close on June 28. 

In Putnam County, the nonprofit Putnam County Housing Corp. ( oversees 120 units of senior housing in Carmel and Mahopac and 12 units of transitional and permanent housing. The waiting list for its federal voucher program is closed and there are long lists for the senior apartments. PCHC advises anyone in risk of losing housing to call the county Department of Social Services & Mental Health at 845-808-1500.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics

Join the Conversation


  1. Thank you so much for covering this topic and for bringing to light the flaws in our local system. Excellent piece!

    Research shows that the best practice for ending homelessness is the prioritization and development of permanent housing options and rapid re-housing funds rather than lots of emergency shelter beds. It would be great to see our local communities shift resources toward permanent solutions.

    Tiderington is a professor at the School of Social Work at Rutgers University whose research focuses on housing services.

  2. Thank you so much for covering the human side of the defeat of the good-cause eviction law in Beacon. And thanks to Len Warner and Nick Page for being the neighbors Donald Van Voorhees desperately needed.

    Warner pointed out that low-income units are lost every time a building is demolished or renovated in Beacon, but without good-cause, low-income homes can be taken from renters with no justification whatsoever as long as the lease is up. We need to pass good-cause statewide.

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