City may back temporary homeless shelter
By: David Riley
City leaders may be willing to put up $50,000 to fund a temporary homeless shelter this winter if Monroe County and private donors will match that amount.
It looks unlikely, however, that county officials will agree to the plan.
Advocates with the Rochester Emergency Action Committee for the Homeless, or REACH, have been asking city and county officials for $50,000 each to help set up and staff such a shelter before the weather turns colder.
REACH also has committed to try to raise $50,000 on its own. The temporary site is supposed to be a stopgap until House of Mercy can open a new permanent shelter sometime next year on Ormond Street in northeast Rochester.
City officials have taken a step toward embracing REACH’s idea — with several conditions.
Mayor Lovely Warren, City Council President Loretta Scott and Councilwoman Carla Palumbo have submitted legislation to City Council to commit money to the plan and to authorize the mayor to enter an agreement with REACH.
But first, the advocates would have to secure a safe, city-approved location to house no more than 50 people.
REACH also would need to come up with matching county and private funds, submit a detailed budget and work plan, and show evidence that the shelter will work with other service providers that help the homeless.
City Council’s neighborhood and business development committee will consider the proposal next week.
But county spokesman Justin Feasel said the county already spends about $5 million on partnerships with 17 reputable emergency housing providers, and supports Code Blue, an initiative to provide additional shelter during freezing temperatures.
“We have reviewed the proposal and the county continues to stand by its requirement that housing organizations with whom we contract must provide a plan to actively address the drug, alcohol and/or mental health needs of the clients they serve,” Feasel said in a written statement.
There are several shelters already in the city, but the temporary one is aimed at homeless people who are not allowed or unwilling to go to more structured facilities. Many have persistent substance abuse problems or are mentally ill.
“It’s the body of people that are sanctioned from other shelters,” Palumbo said Sunday. “I understand and agree that people ought to do what they need to do to be unsanctioned, but these are people with persistent issues.”
“They just can’t be outside,” Palumbo added.
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