HUDSON–The annual headcount of homeless people in the county and the plight of one family stranded here were among the issues discussed at county Board of Supervisors Human Services Committee meeting Wednesday, May 18.
Also on the agenda was some good news about quicker processing of claims made by veterans to the federal Veterans Administration. And did outreach to the office of a presidential candidate clear away a seven-year paperwork logjam faced by one local vet?
The county Department of Social Services (DSS), at latest count, lodges 46 homeless people in hotels. That figure was part of a report Kary Jablonka, county commissioner of Social Services delivered to the Human Services Committee. “Jail is not the answer for them,” he said.
The 46 include only eight families of two or more people; the rest are single individuals. Not counted in the 46 are the several people with no permanent address staying with relatives and acquaintances. These include children, some of whom the schools have identified.
Supervisor William Hughes, Jr., (D-Hudson, 4th Ward) praised the DSS—and in particular Deputy Commissioner Michelle Ublacker—for helping a family from New York City that became stranded in Columbia County earlier this month. The family, two deaf parents and four small children, had been living at a shelter in New York City. But one day recently they packed all their possessions into a car and began driving north. Their car died in Claverack.
According to Mr. Hughes, the family said they were headed toward Amsterdam, NY. Soon both Mr. Hughes and DSS officials, notified of the matter after their normal working hours, got involved. They could not get in touch with anyplace in Amsterdam ready to receive the family. So they got tickets on public transportation for the family to return to New York City.
Mr. Hughes said he figured that when they reached New York City the family returned to the shelter, but at least that “was not the streets,” he said.
Gary Flaherty, Executive Director of the Veteran’s Service Department, reported that his new computer system has sped up the submission and processing of claims filed by veterans. Sometimes he sends applications to a veterans services office in New York City, but when the matter is urgent, he sends the claim directly to the Veterans Administration in Washington, DC.
He said that when he sends a claim to Washington instead of the New York City VA office, officials in the city get angry with him because they lose the payment for processing the application.
Mr. Flaherty also reported using national presidential politics to resolve a claim that was pending for seven years. He said he called a Donald Trump campaign office and said, “Trump says he wants to help veterans. Well, I have this case….” Mr. Flaherty said that he made that call on a Friday by the following Tuesday he got calls back from both the campaign office and the VA. The VA said the case had been approved. Mr. Flaherty expects the veteran will start receiving compensation after a few more weeks of paperwork.
Mr. Flaherty told the committee that the VA tends to keep a veteran’s account open until informed of the veteran’s death. He said that results in the VA still having open accounts for many deceased veterans.
On another topic, a Moving Wall replica of Vietnam War memorial in Washington DC, which lists names of U.S. military personnel killed in Vietnam combat, will stand from June 2 to 6 in the Halfmoon Town Park, 162 Route 236 near Saratoga Springs. State Senator Kathleen Marchione (R-43rd) helped arrange for the memorial to come to this region.
“I have issues with the Moving Wall,” Mr. Flaherty said. “A lot of my friends are on it.”