Photo by Teah Dowling
The Clinton County Board of Legislators approved a new contract with the Evergreen Townhouse Corporation to provide housing units to homeless individuals and families.
PLATTSBURGH — Call them the hidden homeless — the 100 individuals and families in Clinton County that live in local motels.
But now the county is maxed out.
“We’re booked,” Clinton County Department of Social Services Commissioner John Redden on available housing. “We have a few vacancies here and there, but we want to accommodate as many people as we can.”
To remediate the problem, Clinton County is now working with the Evergreen Townhouse Corporation to provide more housing and service.
The Clinton County Board of Legislators approved a new contract last week with the ETC — a Plattsburgh-based housing organization — to provide eight housing units for homeless individuals and families.
“This type of affordable and stable housing is so very much needed in our community and we are working hard everyday to create housing opportunities for our homeless population,” said ETC Housing Corporation Executive Director Shauna Miller via email.
The $550 per month rent agreement includes mental health and substance abuse counseling, along with employment assistance.
“We try to do everything we can for these individuals,” Redden said. “We’re looking at ways to address this population.”
BEFORE THE CONTRACT
Area Six Legislator Patty Waldron, who’s also the chairperson of the children and family services committee, said for as long she can remember, Clinton County has paid $800 to $850 a month for the homeless to stay in several different motels along Route 9, which she declined to name due to confidentiality reasons.
“The county has always taken care of the homeless,” she said. “But it was very expensive to house them the way we were.”
Costs to house this population have reached as high as $700,000 a year, said Redden. The new contract will save between $18,000 to $20,000 annually by moving people from the motels into the cheaper housing option.
This bill is paid for through a mixture of state and federal funding and taxpayer dollars, said Redden. The percentage of each entity is dependent on the type of homeless population in Clinton County’s care at the time.
“The numbers fluctuate month-to-month,” said Redden. “But the numbers have been going up a little bit over the past several years.”
The homeless population increased from housing 60 to 80 individuals and families a night to 80 to 120, said Redden, due to a number of reasons.
Substance abuse, mental health issues, financial struggles and finding employment are a few, said Redden, and are problems which will be addressed under the new contract with ETC.
AFTER THE CONTRACT
For $550 a month, the ETC staff will provide mental health and substance abuse counseling for those who need it, said Redden. Also, everyone will receive help on finding employment and permanent housing through an ETS staff member, who will be on-site five days a week.
For those who need additional help, Redden said they will be directed to other Clinton County services, such as Clinton County Mental Health for those seeking extra guidance or One Work Source for those seeking to further their education.
Once a housing unit becomes available, Redden said the people residing in the motels will be moved to the ETC location to repeat the transition into permanent housing.
“We try to do everything we can for these individuals,” he said. “We’re constantly assessing them to move them along.”
The Clinton County Department of Social Services, Redden said, requires all individuals seeking housing assistance to go through evaluations on substance abuse and mental health, along with employment assessments.
If one fails to comply, the department has the right to deny them housing, said Redden.
The only exception is when temperatures reach 32 degrees or less, said Redden. Only then is Clinton County required to take in anyone who identifies as homeless.
The several motels will still be utilized to house the people in need of assistance, said Waldron.
“We don’t want anyone dying in the street,” she said. “We want to help as many people as we can.”
Those seeking housing assistance can call the Clinton County Department of Social Services at 518-565-3300 between 8 to 5 p.m. or 518-574-3124 for emergencies. More information can be found on www.clintoncountygov.com.