The City of Amsterdam will soon be home to its first permanent homeless shelter. As our Maria Valvanis explains, organizations all over Montgomery County are responding to the growing problem.
Executive Director of Catholic Charities for Fulton and Montgomery County, John Nasso, said, "With the school year starting, I couldn't imagine what it would be like for kids to be homeless or in a motel room, when they're supposed to be going to school."
With help from Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, that won't be a worry much longer. They are under contract to purchase a building on East Main Street in Amsterdam's east side.
"Our plans are to open a shelter on the bottom floor starting this November," said Executive Director, Janie Robitaille.
The top two floors will be used for transitional housing, something Robitaille says serves as a long term solution. The organization formed a committee with St. Mary's Hospital, local charities and the Department of Social Services.
Johanna Delcostello, Director of Eligibility for the county's Department of Social Services, said, "Amsterdam has biggest opportunity to have a permanent place, but it's not just serving Amsterdam, it's going to serve the entire county."
And committee members tell us just because you may not see people living in the streets, like in major cities, doesn't mean the problem isn't there.
"They go from friend to friend, or they got to abandoned houses, we've had reports of people living out in tents in the woods," said Nasso.
Homeless rates have grown over the past few years, likely a result of the recession and Montgomery County's high unemployment rate.
The shelter will have case managers on site around the clock, meaning job opportunities will be available.
Michael McMahon, Commissioner of the Department of Social Services, said, "Normally we've had homeless situations, families, individuals we put them up in hotels and that gets costly, because they may be there for several weeks."
Aside from the monetary savings, Robitalle says putting an end to the problem goes much further than just having a place to go.
"We really feel helping someone with more than a roof over their head is the important part and showing them support and care and guidance helps solve the problem," said Robitaille.