Temporary Housing Cost For Homeless Doubles In 1Year

The UCAN City Mission pictured in Jamestown. P-J file photo

The total amount of money Chautauqua County pays to temporarily house the homeless has already doubled what was paid all of last year.

On Wednesday, the Chautauqua County Legislature Human Services Committee heard about the cost to house the homeless during a presentation from Christine Schuyler, county social services commissioner and public health director, Katie Geise, Workforce Investment Board executive director, and Diane Anderson, county certification director.

Schuyler said year-to-date as of Aug. 31, the county has paid $842,181 for temporary shelter for the homeless in the county. In 2017, the county paid a total of $375,584, which was a drastic increase as well compared to the $86,224 funded in 2016.

Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order in 2016, county officials have to take homeless people to a shelter, voluntarily or not, once the temperature drops to 32 degrees or below. The new policy was a departure from the former, which allowed a police officer or outreach worker to take people from the street only if they appeared to be in imminent danger or displayed signs of mental illness.

If there is no room in a shelter like the UCAN City Mission in Jamestown, then the homeless person or family may be taken to a hotel or motel, which then bills the county for the expense of the room, Schuyler said. She did say that depending on the case for the homeless person, the state does provide some reimburse to the county. In the case of emergency aid for adults, the state funds the county 50 percent of the rooms costs.

Schuyler said, however, even though the homeless person or family is being removed from being on the streets, it’s not the greatest environment. For example, she said a single mother with children being placed in a motel next to a single man isn’t an ideal situation. She also said it is difficult for the people to learn basic life skills like how to cook while living in a hotel room.

In another act of business by the committee related to the cost of housing homeless people temporarily, the committee discussed a resolution about increasing the appropriations for emergency aid for adults by $66,000.