HUDSON–County officials spoke to the Human Services Committee of the county Board of Supervisors last month, recounting some of the challenges faced by people their agencies try to help.
Department of Social Services (DSS) Deputy Commissioner Michelle Ublacker described the case of a homeless single mother of three who has no vehicle and works 29 hours a week. In order to qualify for certain public assistance, she must either work at least 30 hours or look for six jobs per week. But her employer will not give her the extra hour of weekly work in order to avoid having to pay for additional benefits.
“How can a woman who lives in a hotel, works 29 hours a week and has three children look for six jobs a week?” Ms. Ublacker asked the supervisors at the October 21 meeting. One way the county could help was for DSS to hire the woman to work for one hour a week in its office.
“The staff is rule driven,” said Ms. Ublacker, and who said this was an example of serving the public while staying within the letter of the rules.
The rules also require Child Protective Services (CPS) to investigate new cases within 60 days, but “We’re overdue,” Ms. Ublacker admitted, because “our staff fluctuates so much.” The DSS has 13 CPS investigators, but only seven can take a full case load. The other six are so new that they are going through training, spending alternate weeks in Albany. Recently CPS got 24 new cases in two days. Despite the heavy caseload, Ms. Ublacker said, “Usually we see the pertinent children within 24 to 48 hours.”
DSS Commissioner Kary Jablonka said that while another “big issue” is homelessness, “We’ve got some very motivated staff,” and the county “knows about” only the 23 households registered as homeless now, down from 54 in October 2014.
But he cautioned, “This doesn’t count couch surfing, sleeping in the woods and sleeping in boarded up buildings.” The Hudson City School District counts 185 children living in situations suggesting homelessness.
“If anyone has ideas, give us a call,” said Mr. Jablonka.
Veteran’s Service Department Executive Director Gary Flaherty mentioned a veteran who must move out of his Chatham apartment by November 1 and a new place lined up in Chatham Manor. But Chatham Manor will not accept his possessions, because his old apartment has bed bugs. So Mr. Flaherty got new furniture for him at the Miracle Center in Albany, which has free furniture, house wares and clothes for honorably discharged veterans.
Mr. Flaherty said the director of a local funeral home in Livingston told him not to worry about the cost of burying a just-deceased veteran whose his son had earlier told Mr. Flaherty—who had tracked him down—that he never wanted to have anything to do with his father again.
Returning to a recurrent problem for his agency, Mr. Flaherty said, “The only van we have on the road came back yesterday pouring black smoke.” It is a used vehicle the county obtained “three or four years ago.”
Mr. Flaherty said by phone after the meeting that he was waiting for the estimated repair costs. “If we put money into it, we should have it for another hundred thousand miles,” he said. Mr. Flaherty also said a grant he is seeking with the help of state Senator Kathy Marchione (R-43rd) may have to wait unto after the 2016 election.
Meanwhile his department is renting a van for $50/day. The van is “on the road every day. It goes all around the county picking clients up, taking them to their appointments, and bringing them home,” he said.
Also at the October 21 committee meeting, Mr. Flaherty said he is still waiting for a full connection to the VA computer system.
Fair Housing officer William Fisher told of a senior citizen facility where rents range from 30% to 60% of the person’s income. One resident who had a part time job on top of social security benefits was charged 50% of her income rent. Recently, she lost the job, but the facility still wanted 50% of her income. Mr. Fisher said he helped her prove that she need to pay 30% of her income and was entitled to a rent reduction.
Mr. Fisher also said that state l requires that multifamily houses must be heated October 1 through May 31.
The next Human Services Committee meeting will take place Wednesday, November 18 at 5:00 pm at 401 State Street in Hudson.