Two homeless shelters in Schenectady are seeing more people knocking at their doors and remaining longer compared to a year ago, officials said. They cite a souring economy, cold weather and personal problems as prime reasons.
Mike Saccocio of City Mission of Schenectady said the mission’s homeless shelter saw 67 men spend Sunday night there — a number the shelter normally would not see until January, if at all. The shelter offers temporary housing only.
“You can go all winter and not hit those numbers,” Saccocio said. “The winter has been cold, but the number of men spending the night is still high for November.”
Chris Silipigno, director of ministries for the mission, said interviews with the men show they come to the shelter for several reasons. “We are seeing the same situations bring them in: drugs, alcohol, family problems. But what we are finding is they are not moving on as quickly,” he said.
The mission offers job skills training to help the men find employment. However, Silipigno said, the job market is so tight that the men are not getting back on their feet as quickly and are returning to the shelter more frequently.
Saccocio said the mission is seeing a 25 percent to 30 percent increase in attendance at the free meals it provides each day and in other services.
“We are seeing increases across the board. What hits our people are rising fuel and utility prices, but they have gone down, so we can’t pinpoint the single factor behind the increases,” Saccocio said.
City Mission also operates nine apartments for women and children, victims of domestic violence and other problems. The apartments are full, Saccocio said.
Major Jim Guest of the Salvation Army of Schenectady said his agency operates a 15-apartment shelter for women and children, often victims of domestic violence and other problems. It does not offer an overnight shelter for men.
Guest said the apartments have remained at capacity for months, an unusual occurrence. “We don’t want to see a continuation of shelters full all the time, but I don’t see a slowdown in the foreseeable future,” he said. “We are finding a lot more people can’t pay rent, or are looking for shelter and are staying with friends and family, but those avenues are short-lived.”
People can stay in the apartments for up to 90 days, with the usual stay at 15 to 20 days, Guest said. “We help people in emergency need.”
People must be referred to the Salvation Army’s apartments by a social service agency. The apartments serve people in Schenectady and Schoharie counties. “We are probably turning some away, but we can’t increase capacity,” Guest said.
Saccocio said City Mission is planning to increase shelter capacity by 33 percent, giving it the ability to serve 80 men per night. “We are identifying new overflow areas in the building. We had men sleeping on floor on mats Sunday night. We are identifying more floor space in other parts of facility,” he said.
Bethesda House of Schenectady and the YWCA of Schenectady also operate shelters. Representatives from each were not available for comment.