Montgomery County

Board says yes to shelter for homeless in Amsterdam

The city’s Planning Board has given the green light to letting a non-denominational group open a she

The city’s Planning Board has given the green light to letting a non-denominational group open a shelter for the homeless in Amsterdam’s east end.

The shelter will be Amsterdam’s first permanent facility to address the problem of homelessness, officials said.

Janine Robitaille, executive director of the Albany-based Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, said the group plans to close on the house at 218 E. Main St. in September or early October and open it no later than December.

Interfaith is paying $85,000 for the privately owned three-story brick structure. It contains three apartments, each with four bedrooms.

The Planning Board approved the project Thursday night; there was no public opposition.

Robitaille said her organization will rent the second and third floors to low-income residents and will use the first floor as a homeless shelter for the first six months of its opening and then offer transitional housing thereafter.

Rental payments are expected to cover the mortgage on the building, Robitaille said. A $10,000 grant from the Amsterdam Rotary Club will help with the down payment, she said.

The facility will be able to house families with children and individuals.

When it will operate as a shelter, Interfaith will provide full-time staff, and anyone seeking shelter there will have to be cleared through the Montgomery County Department of Social Services. When it becomes transitional housing, only a case manager will be there.

Transitional housing is temporary. Residents will stay 30 to 60 days and receive case management services during this period. The services include helping them find a job.

The county DSS will pay the transitional housing rent and residents will receive medical services through Medicaid.

“The goal is they will have money saved enough to have an apartment while they receive transitional housing,” Robitaille said.

Case management services are offered because they “provide structure, rules and goals,” Robitaille said. She said this model has worked successfully at Interfaith’s facility in Albany, now in its 28th year. “I absolutely do view it as a better solution. We notice here in Albany that the recidivism is lower because of what we have in place,” she said.

John Nasso, executive director of Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties, said homelessness is a problem in both counties. He said Catholic Charities partnered with St. Mary’s Healthcare and other organizations several years ago to try to deal with it.

“We have seen it over the years. We have had regular people coming in saying they are homeless because they were evicted, thrown out, all kinds of issues. We were putting them up in motels. When children are involved, that is not the safest thing,” he said.

All ages affected

Nasso described the homeless population as consisting of people of all ages, mostly men with some women and children and predominantly from this area. Robitaille said people become homeless when they are evicted because of code violations, losing their jobs or through poor budgeting. Some of the homeless have mental health issues.

Nasso said the coalition paid for the weeklong motel stays and did not provide any other services, such as case management. Two years ago, they brought in Robitaille’s group as an adviser and started using an apartment as a homeless shelter. A year ago, they rented a house on Voorhees Street. “We were open five months and served 60 people,” Robitaille said. “Last year, we put a roof over their heads. Now we are offering case management,” she said.

Nasso said Catholic Charities and St. Mary’s were putting a Band-Aid on the homeless problem with their approach.

Working with Robitaille, they are offering a long-term, better solution, he said. “As soon as they go in, there is a plan for discharge. It is not permanent,” he said.

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