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Schenectady honored by White House for aiding homeless veterans

Schenectady honored by White House for aiding homeless veterans

Homeless veterans identified in Schenectady have been provided with housing, making the city one of
Schenectady honored by White House for aiding homeless veterans
In this Nov. 9, 2015, photo President Barack Obama speaks during a Organizing for Action event in Washington. Six years ago, the Obama administration set the ambitious goal of ending veteran homelessness in 2015 and ending the backlog in disability cla...

Homeless veterans identified in Schenectady have been provided with housing, making the city one of a few the White House says has ended veteran homelessness.

The city, along with Syracuse and Las Vegas, was mentioned in a news release issued by the White House on Veterans Day. Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said the city has provided housing to 20 veterans.

“It’s the nature of it where you have to go through each individual and see what their unique features are and then work through issues like housing, drugs and mental health problems,” McCarthy said Wednesday.

The effort is part of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, which included the mayors of Albany, Amsterdam, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady and Troy. The initiative was made a national priority by first lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.

HUD, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness spearheaded the partnership.

“They are announcing now that we have completed our goal,” McCarthy said. “Some veterans went through the [Schenectady Municipal] Housing Authority and Bethesda House.”

Kim Sheppard, Bethesda House’s executive director, said the nonprofit was the lead agency as part of the mayor’s challenge and homeless veterans who were found have been housed in apartments in the city and the county.

Sheppard said a few landlords in the city pitched in to offer apartments to the veterans.

Satnarine Premnauth, of K & K Property Management in Albany, said he helped to provide housing for six or seven homeless veterans in the city.

“Bethesda House calls me sometimes to try to find a place for people to live,” he said. “I have one veteran on Brandywine. He’s a very nice gentleman who is battling cancer, too. He moved in about three months ago.”

Premnauth said providing places for veterans to live is the least he could do for people who have served the country.

“They are people who work for us and look out for us,” he said. “And you have to look out for them too.”

Larramore Washington, who owns a building on McClellan Street, said she has worked with Bethesda House to connect homeless people with housing, as well. She said her husband was in the Army and her brother was in the Marines, so she likes to help other veterans whenever possible.

“I believe one of them in the building is a veteran,” she said. “My son has property on Craig Street, and he also helps veterans that need homes.”

But their work is not done, Sheppard said. She stressed that it’s an ongoing process to pinpoint homeless veterans and find them housing.

“We decided it wasn’t just going to be a one-time challenge,” she said. “While the veterans we identified were housed quickly, it’s an ongoing concern. So what we did was, each quarter Bethesda House set up a team of people to identify if there were any more veterans out there that were homeless.”

Sheppard said several agencies contributed, including the Schenectady County Department of Social Services, Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority, City Mission, Albany Housing Coalition and several veterans groups.

Mike Saccocio, CEO of the City Mission, said the nonprofit offered shelter to 66 veterans in 2015, and has served 45 veterans so far this year.

“Homelessness is dynamic,” Saccocio said. “Somebody could be stable at that point in time, and then the next day they are homeless. Good work has been done. It has been somewhat of a consistent flow.”

McCarthy said the city is looking to keep the effort going and continue working with local agencies to house homeless veterans and other homeless individuals.

“There is that dialogue and exchange of information that is ongoing,” he said. “There might be a case that happens tomorrow and we would have to reach out to some agency or support network to help the situation.”

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