SCHENECTADY — With two recent funding awards announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Bethesda House of Schenectady has cleared all the funding hurdles and will be able to move ahead with construction of a new homeless shelter.
Cuomo announced earlier this week that the plans will receive $6.2 million in funding, marking the final funding piece on a long-term effort to expand housing for the homeless in the vicinity of Bethesda’s 834 State St. location, which also has shelter beds and apartments for the homeless.
The new three-story building will be built at 917 State St., on a vacant lot Bethesda is obtaining from the city of Schenectady.
“It’s been a long time coming. We submitted three applications to the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance [before getting funded],” said Kim Sheppard, executive director of Bethesda House. “We are very excited.”
With the funding in place, Sheppard said she met Thursday with the architects, and Bethesda hopes to be able to submit plans to the state for approval next week, break ground in May or June, and open in roughly mid-July 2022.
Federal funds and private foundation funding are also going toward the project. The application process has required them to show the need for additional services for the homeless in Schenectady.
To be called Cara House, the new building will include 16 emergency shelter beds and 26 permanent supportive housing units. There will also be additional space for support programs like job training, mental health services and medical care. Sheppard said there are plans for a psychiatric nurse-practitioner, case manager and medical staff to be based in the building.
The $6.2 million grant announced by Cuomo is coming from the state’s Homeless Housing Assistance Program. It was part of $90 million in funding statewide announced at the same time by the governor.
“Homelessness and housing insecurity are not just isolated issues that can be addressed with a one-shot solution — we need a holistic approach which connects vulnerable New Yorkers to housing options, but also to the services which help ensure they can once again be contributing members of their communities, especially in the age of COVID,” Cuomo said.
Money is coming from the state’s Homeless Housing and Assistance Program, which was doubled in funding last year, from $64 million to $128 million.
The project is being funded, however, from a variety of other sources too; Bethesda House officials have been trying to line up the necessary funding for a couple of years, then seeing their efforts pay off with a rush of funding in the last few months.
In November, U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko, D-Amsterdam, announced that the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York would provide $1 million in construction funds. In addition, another state program, the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative, will provide $650,000 in annual program support, according to an announcement from Cuomo’s office last week.
The Schenectady County Department of Social Services will also be providing financial support for social services clients when they are staying in the shelter.
While government is providing the bulk of the funding, assisting in the effort were two local private charitable foundations. The Wright Foundation of Schenectady pledged $400,000, plus an additional $10,000 for Bethesda House to retain the professional services needed to obtain the state grant funding.
“The Wright Family Foundation aspires to do more than just donate funds,” said Chad Kilbourne, a trustee of the foundation. “We want to be part of a team effort making strategic decisions with our counterparts to make positive, impactful things happen in the community.”
The Golub Foundation of Schenectady also invested $400,000 in the project.
“Here, the collaborative effort between Bethesda House and the two local foundations has paid off well,” Kilbourne said.
Bethesda House has been serving the poor and homeless population in the local area since 1992, expanding a number of times over the years.