The city has opened the public comment period for its plan to distribute nearly $995,000 in federal coronavirus relief funding targeted to responding to the impact of the pandemic on the homeless community, with six local agencies set to receive funds.
Under the CARES Act, the city was allocated a total of $994,996 in Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG-CV2) funding by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to prevent, prepare for and respond to the pandemic among individuals and families who are homeless.
In order to access the funding, the city is required to present a plan to HUD identifying key partners and service providers; as well as specific services and activities that will help prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19 among the homeless population.
The city’s plan, outlined during Monday’s Finance Committee meeting by city Director of Development Kristin Diotte, designates funding to six local agencies: Schenectady Community Action Program (SCAP); Bethesda House’ Safe Inc. of Schenectady; YWCA of Northeastern NY, Inc.; New Choices Recovery Center; and Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Inc.
Debra Sivack, program director for New Choices, said in a phone interview Monday that the grant would allow her agency to expand its housing assistance program beyond its work with individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders.
“It’s being able to financially assist people a little bit more than what we could in our other housing programs,” Sivack said.
The city’s recommendation, the result of a process led by the county Homeless Services Planning Board, allocates 50% of the funding to prevention, 20% each to outreach/emergency shelter programs and rapid rehousing, and 10% to administrative costs.
“We continue to work with our partners and service providers to determine the most immediate needs for this funding,” Diotte said.
The allocation of the grant funding is outlined as follows:
- Bethesda House Street Outreach: $17,100 requested to continue providing street outreach to approximately 194 individuals and connecting them with needed services.
- Bethesda House Emergency Shelter: $16,900 requested to provide emergency shelter to 284 individuals.
- SCAP: $89,999 requested to contract with Schenectady County Public Health to provide COVID-19 testing and vaccination for Schenectady’s emergency shelter system, in which 450 homeless and essential workers will be served.
- Safe Inc. of Schenectady Safe House: $50,000 requested to connect with 96 homeless, runaway and at-risk sexually exploited/human trafficked youth and provide education and training in basic life skills.
- YWCA Northeastern NY: $25,000 requested to ensure the safety of approximately 33 homeless per month. Funding will be used to keep the domestic violence shelter clean and sanitary during the pandemic by providing contractual services and equipment.
- New Choices: $176,603 requested for personnel ($23,270), travel ($200), equipment ($1,565), property rental ($1,200) and operations ($468), financial assistance ($23,300) and rental assistance ($126,000) to provide 40 individuals with homeless prevention services.
- SCAP: $143,873 requested for financial assistance ($6,273) and rental assistance ($137,600) to provide rental assistance for an estimated 86 families and utility assistance for an estimated 25 families.
- Bethesda House: $97,622 requested for personnel ($31,800), contractual ($20,000), travel ($3,200), equipment ($2,000) and rental assistance ($40,622) to provide case management, social work, essential needs services and rental assistance to 30 households.
- Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York: $80,000 requested for financial assistance ($5,000), rental assistance ($60,000) and landlord incentives ($15,000) to provide rental arrears, security deposit, first and/or last month rent, monthly rent supplements or permissible landlord incentives in the form of signing bonuses, security deposits or payment of costs to repair damages not covered by a security deposit. The project will serve 20 households.
- SCAP: $108,999 requested for financial assistance ($4,999) and rental assistance ($104,000) to provide rental assistance for an estimated 65 households, with approximately 20 of those households receiving utility assistance.
- YWCA Northeastern NY: $90,000 requested for financial assistance ($10,000) and rental assistance ($80,000) to provide moving costs, rental payments and security deposits. The project will serve 20 individuals.
Sivack said the funding will help expand access to housing for many struggling individuals in the community, and will be especially important should the state’s current eviction moratorium expire.
“If that ever gets lifted at some point,” she said, “there’s going to be more people in need in our community, people that are going to be losing their housing or having difficulty trying to identify other places to live. It’s really assisting people that are currently in shelters or in abandoned buildings. We have all that going on in Schenectady — tent communities — and [we’re] just trying to do some outreach to identify those individuals that need immediate assistance. That’s our hope, anyway.”
Sivack said New Choices currently has more than 100 people on its list of individuals looking for housing opportunities.
“That’s a lot of folks,” she said, “and that, by all means, doesn’t cover all the homeless population; the ones that we couldn’t identify, or couldn’t reach, or didn’t put in applications for housing assistance. There’s a great need out there, no doubt.”
The plan to amend the 2019-20 HUD Annual Action Plan to utilize the funds will be open until Friday at 4 p.m.