GLENS FALLS - Homeless people in Warren County have traditionally been temporarily housed in motels and hotels at taxpayer expense, but soon they'll likely be placed in a local shelter - at a far lower cost than before.
County supervisors voted Aug. 5 to contract with Open Door to provide shelter for the county's homeless for $25 per night after Open Door launches housing services, expected within weeks. Now, the nonprofit agency runs a soup kitchen on South Street in Glens Falls.
The county is now paying an average of $64.50 per night to house the homeless, which ranges from five or so during summer months to 30 or more during the peak winter months, according to county Social Services director Sheila Weaver.
The Open Door agency plans to purchase the former Glens Falls Home for women on Warren Street to provide shelter and meals to those in need.
As soon as a month or two, Open Door may be acquiring the historic home, which has 26 bedrooms, director Bruce Hersey said. He noted higher-level sex offenders and arsonists will not be admitted to the shelter.
Shelter to require rules, chores for residents
While housed in the motels and hotels in recent years, the homeless had televisions, and perhaps wi-fi, video games and even occasionally a swimming pool and other amenities. But at the Open Shelter they're likely to have just a bed, clean sheets and meals, Hersey said.
"There will be no electronic media or luxuries," he said.
More important, he said, those staying in the shelter will have structure to their lives, typically lacking in other places the homeless have been placed to date.
The Open Door shelter is envisioned to include strict behavior rules, counseling, and help with job searches.
With experienced Open Door management on site, shelter occupants will have direction and behavior boundaries, and will be expected to accomplish chores, Hersey said.
Warren County Budget officer and Town of Warrensburg supervisor Kevin Geraghty said these changes were welcome.
"Anytime we can get the homeless better facilities while saving taxpayers money, it's a win-win situation for everybody," he said. "The chores and house rules are a great idea to help the homeless structure their lives."
Hersey said the proposed shelter's program will include linking up their residents with the offerings of other human service agencies, to locate jobs, transportation and suitable homes, and to help solve clients' issues, like substance abuse and personal financial management.
"Each person in our shelter will have a case manager, and we'll develop a plan for each one," he said. "We'll tie people into programs whether it's for substance abuse recovery or acquiring job skills or placements."
Weaver said she was happy about the Open Door initiative, championed by Glens Falls supervisor Bud Taylor.
"It will definitely be a good collaboration," she said.
Hersey said the aim of the program would be to assist the homeless in becoming self-sufficient as soon as possible and leading productive lives.
"We'll be finding creative solutions to get the homeless jobs, to turn their lives around, and get them integrated back into the community."