IF you live in Columbia County and you care about our homeless population or the amount of money we spend, you need to read this.
Recently Supervisor Linda Mussmann called into question a homeless supportive housing project being coordinated with the Galvan Foundation, her constant pitch is, “why isn’t Galvan building a shelter in Hudson?” What Supervisor Mussmann and others choose to ignore is, there was a project proposed by Columbia County in 2012 on 7th Street, (Columbia Paper) “a joint effort by the Mental Health Association of Columbia-Greene Counties Inc. and the Galvan Foundation propose a full-time, 24-hour a day program for single homeless people and include counseling, job skills acquisition and other rehabilitative services”. This project was protested against by groups of people who live in Hudson and eventually shutdown by the County. Everyone thinks it’s easy to build a facility to help our Homeless, everyone say they want to help or that something needs to be done, but then there is the protesters saying, “not in my backyard”. Take the 7th Street project, first it was, it’s too big, then it was, it’s going to cost too much, there was so much negativity being thrown at the project the Board of Supervisors unfortunately decided to walkway.
Today, there is a new idea, with a few important changes that make a pretty big difference from the 2012 project. The main differences are, the 7th Street project was being built by Galvan, Columbia County would inter into a lease with Galvan and the Mental Health Association for $300,000 a year to provide all the services. Also, at the time, homeless numbers were projected to be falling as low as 16 to 20 individuals, Columbia County was looking for a 10 room minimum circuit breaker. Today, our homeless individuals average around 45 during warm months to as high as 95+ in winter months.
The current proposed project is, Galvan is renovating the Sunset motel, rooms are being built using green standards, and rooms would be of high quality standards. As far as services go, Columbia County Dept. of Social Service, (DSS) would rent a room, 30% of the room fee would be given back to provided wrap around services.
The big difference here is, Galvan is building a hotel, the County can choose to use them or not, but if they continue doing what they are doing it means using hotels and motels in poor conditions, no services, little guidance and high room rates. What the Sunset is offering is, a room rate that would be very competitive with other motels, rooms that are in much better condition and the big “get”, Galvan will give 30% of the room fees back for the County to provide wrap around service onsite, which means a dramatic saving to the taxpayer overall.
One of the top arguments being said is, the Sunset is too far away from all the services: Answer. The County has already created one bus line from philmont, through various towns and the City of Hudson, to the College and was in the process of creating another line from the Sunset to shopping centers and sites of potential employers. The reason this works is, when someone is in homeless care of the County, most, if capable have to do job searches as well as other job programs which they do at the College, so the argument they are too far from services, not really, they are closer to the college at the Sunset than if they lived in the middle of Hudson. As to being close to shopping centers, they would be closer to Hannaford than most that live in Hudson is to Shoprite.
Another big complaint is, these people are going to be near a school or adult housing: Answer. These comments bother me the most, our homeless is being stigmatized like they all are bad or have something we should be afraid of. The truth is, many need money management skills, don’t have a steady stream of income, may have pressing health issues or a slight mental illness that can be managed like many who live around us today. The fear mongering of the homeless population is out of hand and unwarranted. Hell, we all have people living in our community that isn’t homeless we wished lived elsewhere. Being homeless isn’t a crime and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad person. Stop thinking our homeless are all bad people; for the most part they are people who have fallen on hard times.
Another issue being thrown around is, let’s put this project out for an RFP, (request for proposal). Answer. The County has no control over Galvan building a motel, so there is no RFP there. The County can, RFP services, that is a decision for the Commissioner of DSS on how that process will be done.
Another important point, Supervisor Linda Mussmann says, “Galvan should build a shelter in Hudson” Answer. Hudson has zoning laws, the only area in Hudson that would allow “transitional housing” is, the North 7th Street area and parts of Green Street, so options are limited in the City of Hudson. Plus, a project on 7th Street was walked away from by the County in 2012 because of public pressure To make projects like this successful a lot of ground work has to be done, if Supervisor Linda Mussman wants a shelter in Hudson, she should lay the ground work first, then seek out a developer to work with her to get the project done. It’s easy to say, build it here; build it there, without putting in the work.
CONCLUSION: The Galvan Foundation is going to build a motel, Columbia County could rent rooms, receive 30% back to provide wrap around services, expand the transportation line to the homeless as well as general public at a reduce cost or they can continue to rent rooms from the current hotels they’re in, rooms in bad shape, no services, hotel owners can charge what they want, because NYS mandates DSS house the homeless in weather below 32 degrees. Through all the kerfuffle, truth is, Columbia County by renting from the Sunset can rent rooms at a discount, provide needed services, expand transportation, all for the same price or a little cheaper than what they are currently doing by using the hotels they are in.
If you support doing better for our homeless and saving taxpayer money, call your County Supervisor, tell them to support our homeless and to stop listening to people vilify our homeless.