FULTON COUNTY — Fulton County is set to become the only county in New York state without access to “Continuum of Care,” federal HUD funding to help rehouse the homeless.
Until recently, out of the 62 counties in New York state, only Fulton, Montgomery, Schoharie, Herkimer and Putnam counties did not participate in Continuum of Care, a federal program that allows non-profit organizations operating under the oversight of an appointed government board to access U.S. Housing and Urban Development funding to help quickly house homeless individuals and families.
But now Montgomery, Schoharie, Herkimer and Putnam have come together to form a “Balance of State” consortium to access the funds.
Michael McMahon, Montgomery County’s commissioner of social services, said the formation of the consortium was not mandated by New York state, but it was formed as a solution for counties that chose not to form continuums in the late 1980s when the program was started. He said he estimates Montgomery County has been leaving between $100,000 and $300,000 in federal funding on the table annually by not participating in a continuum.
“The Balance of State refers to all the five counties that were not covered under a continuum. Apparently, Fulton chose not to join. They are now the only county not covered by a continuum in New York state,” he said. “The money would be distributed pro rata between the now four counties to be used for rapid rehousing and rental vouchers. We expect to see that money in 2020.”
Fulton County officials have said in the past that people in the county won’t support an official homeless program beyond mandated services out of a fear that “if you build it, they will come.”
The Fulton County Board of Supervisors on Monday listened to an impassioned plea by Gloversville resident Jerry Ryan. Ryan told the board the homeless are already in Fulton County, most of them formerly having homes there. “They are our neighbors,” he said.
Using information gathered from the Fulton County Department of Social Services, Ryan told the board:
• Fulton County in 2018 had 547 homeless adults and 310 homeless children;
• 40 percent of the homeless reported having income of some kind in the form of wages, social security, or other means;
• 117 of those homeless were served by the county DSS, which is paid for with 71 percent local money;
• 160 of the homeless reported having been homeless in the last 24 months;
• Self-reporting to DSS showed 16 of the homeless were veterans, 63 were previously in foster care, 69 had drug or alcohol use, 130 had mental health issues and 26 physical disabilities;
• The last residences of the 502 homeless were: Fulton County (410), Montgomery County (29), Out of state (23), NYC/Long Island (5) and Saratoga County (3).
Ryan made an ethical plea to the Fulton County Board of Supervisors to take action and either form a continuum on their own or join the Balance of State consortium.
“We’re all going to be judged by how we treat the least among us,” he said.
Board Chairman Jack Wilson, supervisor of the town of Johnstown, said members of the board have shown no interest in participating in the continuum program.
“We talked about that in committee, and I don’t remember anyone [putting forward a resolution],” he said.
A complete list of all of the continuums nationwide, more than 700, is available at nhipdata.org/continuums. According to the list on that website New York state has 31 continuums of care. Smaller states have fewer continuum areas. Maine for example has only two: the Portland area and a “Balance of State” continuum that covers the rest of the state.
Fulton County Administrator Jon Stead said the board could take up the issue in the future if supervisors choose to do so.
“There doesn’t seem to be support for it at the committee level, but a committee member could certainly bring that back up,” he said.