Questions remain as to if vets were displaced from hotel by asylum seekers

Orange Lake motel where migrants are now housed

TOWN OF NEWBURGH – A claim by the YIT Foundation and its Executive Director Sharon Finch that a Town of Newburgh hotel forced 20 homeless veterans to check out of the hotel early to make room for migrants and asylum seekers is false, says hotel management.  Finch told Mid-Hudson News that 20 homeless veterans that she works with were informed on May 12, 2023, that they had to check out the next day, creating a substantial hardship and a rush to find emergency housing for the displaced veterans that were at the hotel.

State Assemblyman Brian Maher, a supporter of the organization, claims that the veterans were displaced as a result of migrants from New York City being placed in the hotel.

He provided a credit card receipt that purports to show a more than $37,000 payment for rooms for the vets.

But, a graphics expert examined the receipt and said it appears to have been altered with smudges behind the darker type and different fonts on the receipt.

Contacted by Mid-Hudson News Wednesday night and provided with a copy of the receipt, the hotel manager said, “I checked the dollar on the net on the credit card ending in 5728 and the screen shows no transactions. The hotel has no record of this transaction.”

The image of the document provided by Assemblyman Maher (story continues below):

The manager said there were no veterans at the hotel, none were kicked out and no other guests were told to vacate.

The hotel does have a group of asylum seekers there, but the seven-year general manager noted that the hotel is not even booked to capacity and rooms are available.

This past weekend Finch told Mid-Hudson News that she was able to relocate the 20 veterans to the Wingate by Wyndham Hotel in Fishkill, with her YIT Foundation paying for the rooms.  No such guests were in the Fishkill facility, according to an employee there.  He noted that three veterans were being housed there by MHA Dutchess County, but he stressed that YIT had not put any veterans in the hotel for “a long time.”

MHA Dutchess is the service provider of the MHA Dutchess Vet2Vet program.  Between MHA Dutchess directly and Vet2Vet, thousands of veterans are assisted in Dutchess County and the surrounding area each year.  Many of the veterans served are encountered through routine outreach conducted by the organizations.  MHA Dutchess President & CEO Andrew O’Grady was asked about helping the veterans in Fishkill.  He responded to Mid-Hudson News by saying “MHA Dutchess has a relationship with Wingate Dutchess.  We place veterans there while we seek permanent housing solutions.  In an effort to engage these 20 veterans from Orange County, we contacted Wingate and were told that there were no veterans from Orange County placed at Wingate.”

Heather Bell-Meyer with “Peter” who made a substantial cash donation after hearing about the controversy.

On Monday, Finch’s story shifted when being interviewed by Mid-Hudson News at the Orange County Veteran Center.  At that point, she claimed that 20 veterans, across three different hotels, were told on Sunday, May 7th, that they needed to check out on the following day.  The revised statement indicates that the alleged displacement happened a week earlier than originally claimed.  Also, instead of all 20 veterans supposedly being at the Crossroads, the YIT founder said 15 of the veterans were told to vacate the Crossroads, three were displaced from the Super 8 in the Town of Wallkill, and two others were kicked out of the Hampton Inn, also in Wallkill.

Wallkill Town Supervisor George Serrano Wednesday said no veterans were placed in hotels in his town.

Finch says those 20 were moved to Fishkill on Friday, May 12, 2023.  On Tuesday, Finch then indicated that she moved the 20 vets to a hotel in Danbury for privacy this week.

The general manager of Crossroads, who did not want her name published for security reasons, said that until the news came out late last week, she had never heard of Finch or the YIT Foundation.

That is a direct contradiction of Finch’s claim that she had a standing agreement with the hotel and her credit card was on file to pay for the rooms.  “They have my credit card and run it to pay for the rooms of veterans that we house there,” Finch had previously told this reporter.  The hotel refuted that, once again denying knowledge of Finch or the foundation, adding “We do not save credit cards – none of that is true.”

Assemblyman Maher’s chief of staff on Tuesday was told by Mid-Hudson News that the hotel is claiming that she had called on Monday asking for a copy of the invoice for the veterans that were kicked out and was told that no invoice existed because the veterans weren’t there.  Asked to explain the incident, the aid, “We are trying to figure it out as well,” and said that Assemblyman Maher would call back with a statement.

Finch returned our reporter’s call on Wednesday afternoon when he sought a copy of the invoice.  “I gave everything to Brian’s (Maher) office,” she said.  “They have the proof.”  When asked to provide a copy of it to Mid-Hudson News, Finch said she was not comfortable putting her banking information into circulation.  When advised that she could redact, or black out the account information, she declined.  When pressed, Finch told the reporter “Call and talk to Heather!”  She was referring to Heather Bell-Meyer.  She is the president and CEO of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce and serves as an Advisory Committee member for the YIT Foundation. She did not return calls for comment.

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