ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) – New York State is investigating after a homeless man died after being turned away from a housing center.
His name was Kendal Haight. For 18 years, he stayed at the Homeless Action Committee on North Pearl Street in Albany.
“Kendal was an incredible human being,” Executive Director Donna DeMaria said. “He helped staff out, he cooked all of the meals when he was sober. Staff called on him to help with everything.”
DeMaria said Haight was beloved by the staff but like many of those receiving housing, he battled with alcoholism.
On Dec. 7, Haight tried to enter the building.
“Kendal came to the door, and he was searched. A bottle of vodka was discovered,” DeMaria said.
Protocol does not allow anyone to enter the building with drugs or alcohol. He was given the option to either ditch the bottle or stay outside for another hour and finish it.
DeMaria said he chose the bottle and the cold.
“We would have let him in if he returned, but he didn’t,” she said. “That was the last time that we saw him.”
His body was found the next day. He had frozen to death overnight.
“Our staff, myself included, are grieving,” DeMaria said. “This is one of the biggest losses that we’ve had.”
The state has opened an investigation into Haight’s death and if the organization was out of line for turning him away.
Attorney Peter Scagnelli says HAC is fully cooperating.
“This should not destroy HAC,” he said.
Now, DeMaria wants to change the rules and prevent future tragedies.
“We have to come up with alternatives,” she said.
The state has not yet released any comment on its investigation.