Supervisors told of options to reduce homelessness

HUDSON–Housing issues–including a Galvan Foundation proposal–veterans’ vans and home alarms highlighted this month’s meetings of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors Human Services and Public Safety committees.

At the Human Services Committee meeting Wednesday, September 16, the Department of Social Services (DSS) reported that what “drives” the count of homeless people is the number of homeless “single males” and “single females,” not those of households with children. Currently the County supports about 31 rooms for homeless people a month.

The DSS is considering a proposal from the Galvan Foundation to put rooms for homeless people in one of Galvan’s buildings. The building would have separate sections for substance abusers, for “people with mental health issues,” and for other clients. DSS is considering that proposal, and an agency supervisor raised the issue of whether registered sex offenders would mingle with the other residents.

DSS Deputy Commissioner Michelle Ublacker said the department is also arranging re-entry housing for people nearing the end of prison terms. The goal is to prevent having people go from prison directly to homelessness.

Also at the Human Services Committee, Fair Housing Officer Bill Fisher reported on two recent cases. In one, a disabled woman’s apartment had insects, underwent extermination and now is bug free but in disorder. The apartment used to receive a weekly cleaning from an agency, but when the bugs appeared, the agency forbade its employees to work there. Now, with the insects gone, Mr. Fisher reported, the Fair Housing Council is trying to get both the apartment back in order and its regular cleaning resumed.

The other case involved a smoke-free senior-citizen housing complex, where a tenant accused of smoking was threatened with termination of her lease. The tenant told both an official of the building and Mr. Fisher that she does not smoke.

Mr. Fisher said he advised her to state that in writing, but he added that “when a tenant says, ‘I’m being accused of something I didn’t do,’ management doesn’t believe it.”

Gary Flaherty, executive director of the county Veterans Service Department (VSD), reported that he continues to visit Ian Delaney, the veteran who was shot in the chest in late July after jumping in front of a gun aimed at somebody else. According to Mr. Flaherty, a doctor said Mr. Delaney will never walk again. From a rehabilitation center in West Haverstraw, Mr. Delaney has moved to his sister’s home in Catskill. Meanwhile, the VA is modifying his home in Hudson for a wheelchair.

Mr. Flaherty also reported that he wrote a letter to State Senator Kathleen Marchione(R-43rd) requesting $126,000 for a new passenger van to transport his clients and is “waiting to hear back.” The new van would hold 12 passengers and two wheelchairs and include “a wheelchair restraint.”

The van the VSD currently uses has been in and out of repair shops and recently blew a tire in Albany. The VSD has a second van, but it is in such bad shape that a mechanic recommended scrapping it. Besides, it is less accessible to people with some handicaps. Mr. Flaherty said he needs to “call the garage and find out what they’re going to do with it.”

And Mr. Flaherty said he has appealed to the federal Veterans Administration to pay the bills of veterans who have ended up in regular hospitals.

In addition, he announced, “I’m proud that we’re the only county with no homeless veterans.”

Also at the Human Services Committee meeting, DSS Commissioner Kary Jablonka asked for a “security assessment” of the DSS building in Hudson.

At the Public Safety Committee meeting September 17, the committee approved an update to an alarm law, which indicates which type of alarms homeowners and others must register and when false alarms trigger penalties. This law was last updated 25 years ago, and the new update has already been “drafted and approved by the county attorney,” according to a representative from the Sheriff’s Office. The representative also said that Sheriff David Bartlett “has found our resources depleted by false alarms.”

The Human Services Committee meets next on Wednesday, October 21. The next Public Safety Committee meeting is Thursday, October 22. The committees meet at 401 State Street.

 

 

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