Homelessness in Plattsburgh is on the rise

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (Sept. 14, 2014) —“The fastest growing group of homeless people in Clinton County is families. Many of those families have young children,” Plattsburgh Housing Authority’s Executive Director Mark Hamilton said.

Homelessness in Plattsburgh is increasing each year. According to Hamilton and Homelessness Analytics, during 2008 to 2012, the total number of homeless persons reported have increased from 53 to 236. That’s an increase of four and a half percent.

To help fight homelessness, Plattsburgh has Plattsburgh Housing Authority (PHA), Evergreen Townhouse Community (ETC), Clinton County Department of Social Services (CCDSS), STOP Domestic Violence at Behavioral Health Services North (BHSN), Champlain Valley Family Services and Veteran Affairs.

Local churches help by providing food drives and clothing to the homeless. The Salvation Army also helps by offering affordable everyday items and assistance programs. ETC and SUNY Plattsburgh sponsored a workshop event on homelessness this past Saturday, May 3 at United Methodist Church.

PHA is heavily regulated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and has waiting list requirements. However, PHA does not offer emergency housing. Tenant rent and HUD Subsidy fund PHA.

“The PHA has recently instituted a ‘homelessness preference’ that will give applicants that meet HUD’s approved definition of homeless points to move them up the waiting list,” Hamilton said.

According to HUD.gov, HUD considers a person homeless “only when he/she resides in places not meant for human habitation, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, abandoned buildings (on the street) or an emergency shelter.

“They may also be in transitional or supportive housing for homeless persons who originally came from the streets or emergency shelters or is in any of the above places but is spending a short time (up to 30 consecutive days) in a hospital or other institution.

“Also being evicted within a week from a private dwelling unit and no subsequent residence has been identified and lacks resources and support networks needed to obtain housing.

“Being homeless also includes being discharged within a week from an institution, such as a mental health or substance abuse treatment facility or a jail/prison, in which the person has been a resident for more than 30 consecutive days and no subsequent residence has been identified and the person lacks the resources and support networks needed to obtain housing.

“Lastly, a person may be considered homeless if they are fleeing a domestic violence housing situation and no subsequent residence has been identified and lacks the resources and support networks needed to obtain housing.”

PHA is collaborating with ETC, CCDSS and STOP Domestic Violence on the new homelessness preference and application.

“PHA also has a long-standing history of working with the Clinton County Continuum of Care in an effort to reduce instances of homelessness,” Hamilton said.

ETC is a temporary emergency shelter and provides an intensive case management service for homeless families and individuals. They supply 12 temporary housing units and 21 permanent housing units. They are located at 6 Tara Ln.

CCDSS helps people with domestic violence, employment and assistance, home care, Medicaid and more. They are located at 13 Durkee St.

STOP Domestic Violence is an NYS-certified program under BHSN assisting victims of domestic violence.

According to BHSN.org, they supply “confidential[ly] safe apartments for those in need and eligible for temporary shelter. Safe apartment residents can take care of immediate needs and assess long range plans for a safe environment while utilizing the support and assistance of staff.”

STOP Domestic Violence is located at 22 US Oval, Suite 218.

According to New York Times article Cuomo and de Blasio Clash Again, This Time Over Homelessness, “Mr. Cuomo’s office…had set aside more than $100 million in his proposed budget to help the homeless, mostly in New York City.”

According to United Neighborhood Houses Summary of the 2014-2015 New York State Executive Budget, Homeless Housing Prevention Services Program received a $30.3 million budget.

New York State’s office of Comptroller stated in 2012 Clinton County had 19.5% of household owners and 47% of household renters above the affordability threshold. In 2000, Clinton County had 38.9% of household renters and 17% of household owners above the affordability threshold. That’s almost a 10% increase in renters who have low income in over the past decade.

Clinton County spent roughly $48 million on social services, including emergency housing for adults and family assistance, according to Clinton County’s Legislative Department’s 2013 Budget online document.

Plattsburgh Mayor James Calnon is still new to the issue of homelessness. He plans on discussing more with Social Services Commissioner John Redden and President and CEO of BHSN, Craig Amoth.

Calnon said via email, “Homeless often seek more densely populated areas, as they provide more services, more opportunities for help and more potential spots for shelter, even the opportunity to group together for safety.”

He believes there is a sufficient demand for a shelter in Plattsburgh.

Calnon added, “Any shelter that is created needs to take into account that the City or the Town should not have to shoulder the cost of a shelter by themselves.”

Calnon does not have any plans at this point in time regarding homelessness.

Awareness is the best way to fight homelessness. If you wish to help, contact the mentioned services and organizations.

Hamilton believes “there is a need for some type [of] transitional housing that has a finite amount of time an individual or family could reside in and would require them to have various services (job training, career counseling, household skill training, etc.) that would allow them to have a successful transition from homelessness to permanently housed.”