Galvan homeless plan advances

Supes Committee OKs new facility and 5-year deal

HUDSON–The county Human Services Committee has agreed to authorize Paul Mossman, commissioner of human services, to enter a five-year lease agreement with the Galvan Initiatives Foundation to provide emergency and transitional housing and support services for single homeless people.

The resolution, approved by the committee July 18, will come before the full Board of Supervisors at their meeting next month if it also is approved by the Budget and Salary and the Finance subcommittees.

Mr. Mossman, who will also be authorized to hire an agency to provide services for homeless families, said in a phone interview he has not yet determined which one will receive the $65,000 contract.

The Columbia County Department of Social Services is responsible for providing shelter for its homeless population. Currently the agency rents motel rooms to house individuals and families, 59 eligible people in all. The county and other interested organizations have expressed dissatisfaction with the motel solution because it places clients in isolated circumstances without supervision or services to assist them in getting their lives back on track.

Under the new plan individuals will be housed in a new facility at State and 7th streets in Hudson, with on-site services and 24/7 supervision. Services are to be provided by the Mental Health Center of the Columbia County Department of Human Services.

Michael Cole, director of human services for the county, said his organization will apply for a license to open a satellite mental health clinic at the new facility.

“This will decrease transportation problems and expedite the client’s engagement with an appropriate individualized behavioral health treatment and recovery process,” he said. Client use of the county’s programs for physical and behavioral health recovery as well as vocational training and education is voluntary, said Mr. Cole, but those programs improve the chances that homeless individuals will find their own housing and jobs.

The 37-room shelter was proposed by the Galvan Initiatives Foundation in response to the county’s request for proposals earlier this year. The proposal, a collaboration of the foundation and the Columbia-Greene Counties Mental Health Association, was rejected by the county because it asked for a seven-year commitment when the RFP had only offered a two-year deal. In May the county Human Services Committee instead asked Commissioner Mossman to negotiate on the committee’s behalf.

The terms Mr. Mossman negotiated leave the county free of financial responsibility for the operation until the facility actually opens. Galvan will be responsible for securing all necessary permits and for arranging services.

Cost projections indicate the county could save between $78,000 and $155,000, depending on occupancy rates the first year the facility operates. The figures do not include savings on food and transportation estimated at around $40,000 that the county may receive.

Statistics indicate a shrinking but still significant homeless population in the county. Part of the drop has occurred due to the smaller number of families seeking shelter. Families suffering economic stress have received more support from the federal Section 8 voucher program than in the past.

At the Human Services Committee meeting Supervisor Art Bassin (D-Ancram) asked what would happen if the county experienced a large drop in homelessness but was still liable for the cost of running the new facility.

Mr. Mossman said that the county would negotiate for the right to turn some of the units into affordable rental housing. The contract will also allow the county veto power if officials are dissatisfied with the supplier of on-site services.

“This meets a need identified by the 10-year plan to end homelessness,” said Tina Sharpe, executive director of Columbia Opportunities, a non-profit organization that helps local citizens suffering from the effects of poverty. Ms. Sharpe is a member of the plan’s implementation advisory committee formed with the assistance of CARES, Inc. in May 2011.

To answer the question of how the county will finance such a plan given the competition for scarce grant funding, local not-for-profit organizations have said they would put their grant writing expertise to work to help find support the project.

“That the Galvan Foundation has funds readily available will help move the project forward,” said Ms. Sharpe. She also said she was pleased with the plan to use a local services provider, the Mental Health Center, whose leaders have been “key players in support of housing and services for the homeless.”

The Galvan Initiatives Foundation is a private entity founded by lawyer and developer T. Eric Galloway and Henry van Ameringen. The foundation and Mr. Galloway own numerous properties throughout the city.

 

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