County reboots effort to house homeless

HUDSON–The Committee for Human Services of the County Board of Supervisors rejected two bids last week for homeless housing and services on the grounds that neither organization submitting plans had fully answered the requirements in the county’s request for proposals.

The needs of the county were not met by the proposals, said County Attorney Robert Fitzsimmons at the May 30 committee meeting.

 

“We tried to get a turnkey solution, but we discovered that there are limitations,” said Hudson Supervisor Bill Hughes Jr. (D-4th Ward). “The committee now understands we’ll have to defer to Paul’s expertise to get services for the county,” he said, referring to county Commissioner of Social Services Paul Mossman. “We want to provide wraparound services. The commissioner is more in tune with this than we are.”

The new plan, said Mr. Hughes, may use the services of as many as three providers.

Mr. Mossman said both of the rejected proposals were “well written and identified some of what the county needs.” But he said the Maranatha Human Services proposal was not detailed enough and did not specify a location.

The limit of two years on the county’s commitment as noted in the request for proposals (RFP) made it difficult for the prospective providers, he said. The proposal filed by the Galvan Foundation and the Mental Health Association for Columbia and Greene Counties asked for a seven-year minimum commitment, which was rejected by the committee as not responsive to the RFP.

After deciding to reject the proposals the committee authorized Mr. Mossman to negotiate on his own with service providers. “It gives me more flexibility,” said Mr. Mossman in a phone interview this week. “We can look at other options. Maybe we can look at scatter site locations.”

The RFP had sought organizations to run a building with supervised housing and a services program for single homeless people. The proposals were to include food and transportation.

Homeless individuals in Columbia County are currently housed in motels. They receive little job training or counseling, a situation that Mr. Mossman says leads to recidivism. Currently 36 motel rooms are engaged by the county to house 27 single homeless people and 8 families, or a total of 59 individuals at a cost of approximately $65 per diem. The state reimburses the county for 29% of the cost of housing homeless people.

During the past two years the county has sought advice on addressing its homeless population from different sources. Commissioner William Moon of Delaware County submitted a report in 2010 to the Board of Supervisors that appeared promising, but his solution of having the county rent apartments to house two to three people each proved problematic. The county is also in the middle of a program led by CARES, Inc., which formed a community homeless advisory committee that was to have a fourth meeting this week. The meeting was postponed until Mr. Mossman has had a chance to meet with other not for profit agencies that have expressed interest in providing services to the county’s homeless.

Mr. Mossman said the county has seen an increase in homelessness in the past four to five years. Rising real estate prices and a trend that has seen buildings in Hudson that once had single rooms for rent purchased and refurbished as apartments and offices with higher rents has created a shortage of units. The loss of affordable housing units were accompanied by a loss of 600 to 700 jobs over the same period due to factory closings.

Commissioner Mossman, as head of the Department of Social Services, has a front row seat on the economy and knows that it ”is in a very tough spot. We’re making steps toward recovery, but it’s a slow process. Medicaid and food stamp applications have risen in double digit increases during past two to three years,” he said.

 

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