GLOVERSVILLE — The city Planning Board is set to hold a public hearing March 2 regarding the Gloversville Free Methodist Church’s application for a site plan that would allow the Rob Constantine Recovery Community and Outreach Center to operate its non-residential addiction recovery services program at the former YWCA.
Rev. Rich Wilkinson said the Rob Constantine Recovery Community and Outreach Center, which is part of the HFM Prevention Council, first approached his church about leasing space in the former YWCA, 33 Bleecker St., over the summer, after it provided Narcan training to staff at the Center for Hope temporary Code Blue shelter, which had operated under the umbrella of the church between February and April of 2019 inside the YWCA building. The church owns the 36,000 square foot building and currently operates a food pantry there called “the Center for Hope”, which is also the name it gave to the temporary Code Blue homeless shelter.
Wilkinson said he’s inked a five-year lease agreement with the Rob Constantine Recovery Community and Outreach Center, and it will be ready to move in May 1.
“They are currently located down in Johnstown on Briggs Street, and they were looking for a larger office space, and one that is more centrally located,” Wilkinson said. “We have an office space on the first floor of the Center for Hope, which, when we first came here was used by a [certified public accountant] and then a small church met there, but for the last several years it’s sat pretty much empty, so we have the space available and this is a good group that fits within our mission.”
Wilkinson said city building inspector David Fox has already told the church the addiction services program is an “approved use” within the zoning around the YWCA building.
“The Rob Constantine Recovery Community is a recovery group, but the best way I have to describe it is that it’s a “post-recovery group” because they help teach people who are in [drug addiction] recovery how to live without their addictive forces,” he said. “People who are caught in addiction — drugs, alcohol, gambling — whatever their addiction is, kind of becomes a part of their life, their habits. So, they teach people how to live without that being a part of their habits.”
Ginger Cato, the director of the Rob Constantine Recovery Community and Outreach Center, said her program has been open for about three and half years, operating in the city of Johnstown. She said typically her program, which is free of cost to participants, has about 60 different people accessing the program on a monthly basis and approximately 120 annually.
“We help people and family members in recovery,” she said.
Cato said her program is funded by three different state grants annually, providing a budget of about $300,000, which pays for a staff of four people currently, and she hopes to hire two more soon.
“We’re a peer-driven service, so we do not provide any clinical services, and we’re not social workers or medical professionals — we’re people in recovery, helping people in recovery,” she said. “We provide individual support services, and I don’t say counseling because we don’t provide that. We do a lot of group session support groups.”
Cato said operating in Gloversville would be better for her program than its current location at 86 Briggs St in Johnstown.
“A lot of people that we’re working with do not have access to transportation, so the Gloversville location is much more centrally located, and it’s also near other services, such as the Family Counseling Center, St. Mary’s and the Victorian Manor of Fulton Friendship House,” she said. “[The former YWCA] is just a better location for the people we’re serving, a lot of them are from Gloversville. If they are not from Gloversville, they are accessing other services in the downtown Gloversville area, so it’s easier to get to us.”
Wilkinson said leasing to the Rob Constantine Recovery Community will not affect any of his potential future plans for the rest of the YWCA building, including any of the space on the 2nd or 3rd floors, which he had used for the temporary Code Blue homeless shelter in 2020.
Controversy erupted in 2020 when the Center for Hope opened the temporary Code Blue homeless shelter at the former YWCA using a temporary certificate of occupancy. When the church applied for a permanent certificate of occupancy, city building inspector David Fox ruled the city code did not allow for homeless shelters of any kind, prompting a Zoning Board of Appeals process that ruled against allowing the temporary code blue shelter to operate at the former YWCA.
In January the City Common Council approved an ordinance change for the city specifically prohibiting temporary Code Blue shelters operating inside the city’s “Form-based Downtown Overlay District”, which includes 33 Bleecker St., but the ordinance change also, for the first time, allowed the temperature-based Code Blue shelter to operate in the rest of the city’s commercially zoned areas.
Temporary Code Blue shelters operate when the temperature drops below 32 degrees according to the rules set forth in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2016 executive order, which mandated no local law in the state of New York can prevent the operation of the temporary shelters.
The temporary Code Blue Shelter ordinance change passed in January, plus the council’s 7-0 decision to pay $25,000 towards the approximately $40,000 cost of the service, allowed the Center of Hope to reopen on a temporary basis at 144 E. Fulton St., where it has operated every night since Jan. 29.
Wilkinson said the Center for Hope is still considering all of its legal options with respect to attempting to reopen the temporary Code Blue Shelter at the former YWCA because that building has more space, room enough for up to 40 people, than 144 E. Fulton St., where the center has to pay a $2,500 monthly rent for a space only big enough for a total of 8 people.