Galvan rehabs old motel to shelter homeless

GREENPORT–The Galvan Foundation has proposed making a Greenport motel it is rebuilding available as housing for homeless people in Columbia County. The Galvan Civic Motel would have the county pay market rate per night/per room to lodge homeless families and family-compatible individuals as long as it has room available.

In return the Galvan Foundation would spend 30% of its revenues from the county on services for the clients and security, Dan Kent, the foundation’s vice president of Initiatives, said in an interview last week.

“We have to work out the contract and agreement,” said Supervisor Patrick Grattan (R-Kinderhook), chairman of the county Board of Supervisors Health and Human Services Committee.

The Galvan Foundation owns and operates 180 affordable housing units in the county.

The Columbia County Department of Social Services (DSS) currently has about 99 homeless people on its rolls, including 5 or 6 families. The number tends to be higher in winter than summer and these figures refer only to people who come to DSS, although it’s likely there are other people in the county with no permanent home. The Galvan Civic Motel will have 25 rooms.

There is no homeless shelter in the county, so when someone comes to the DSS needing a place to lodge, “the only option is to find willing hotel operators. This puts a big strain on my staff,” said DSS Commissioner Robert Gibson. It can take several calls to find a place, which might end up being someplace outside of the county or far from services the client needs.

The motel “will not solve the problem,” but it would reduce it by 25 rooms, and that would be a big help, said Mr. Gibson, who called the Galvan Civic Motel an opportunity to approach the homelessness problem “in a very humane, productive and cost effective way.”

Construction on the motel has begun, and the building could be ready for use sometime in April, Mr. Kent said. It is on the site of the defunct Sunset Motel on Route 9 in Greenport on the border with the Town of Livingston. By road it’s about 5½ miles southeast of downtown Hudson and 4 miles east of Columbia-Greene Community College. There’s a Hannaford Supermarket about a mile away. Across the street from the motel is Liberi, a private elementary school.

Resident DSS clients would have access to “amenities not offered anywhere else—like a common kitchen and computer stations,” Mr. Gibson said.

Additional offerings include a laundry, some outdoor recreation space and “case management sources to connect them with permanent housing, and employment,” said Mr. Kent.

The county already contracts for services with third-party non-profit organizations to provide service and the Galvan Foundation has scheduled meetings with these organizations to determine which will provide services and security at the motel.

“We’re looking for something where the homeless are supervised and provided services,” said Mr. Grattan. The first thing is to get them out of being homeless. To get them into rentals. The second is to find people jobs and train them. And screen for mental health.”

Mr. Kent said, each room will have its own bathroom, table, chairs and refrigerator. The foundation will provide daytime and nighttime clerks, housekeeping and cleaning staff. Clients would get “high quality hotel rooms that the county doesn’t have to pay a cent more for than what they’re paying for the other hotels,” now used to house homeless people.

Mr. Grattan said one staffing concern officials have is that “there always be someone there to manage.”

Mr. Kent said the motel will have 24/7 security and supervision and trained security guards. In addition, a resident manager will live on site.

Though most homeless clients are solo, Mr. Gibson expects the Galvan Civic Motel would make families with children a priority. He and Mr. Grattan said families must be kept together. Mr. Kent said every client must have a bed.

The presence of families at the motel and with a school across the highway, officials and Galvan agree that the motel must be child-friendly, safe for children and perceived as such. This will require making exceptions to the rule that DSS clients must go to DSS for shelter if that agency has a vacancy.

DSS Commissioner Gibson said that the majority of homeless people “are very good individuals. They’re just in need,” and added, “Only a small percent are not suitable” for placement with children.

Examples of those who he said would not be suitable for the motel would include people just released from prison and sex offenders. “They deserve services,” but at places separate from where children are. “I’ve talked to Galvan about it,” the commissioner said.

“We don’t want children to be exposed to anyone who’s problematic,” said Mr. Grattan. “Galvan is not obligated to take anybody.”

The Galvan Civic Motel “will have the ability to book rooms” with the general public but will give priority to DSS clients and is “anticipating” that it will have only DSS clients, Mr. Kent said.

Mr. Grattan said the motel can open for business as soon as it is ready and start accepting the homeless later.

Commissioner Gibson and Mr. Kent suggested that the county would provide public transportation to and from the motel.

Mr. Gibson has no concern that money paid to the Galvan Foundation would crimp the DSS budget for the temporary housing of those who do use the Galvan Civic Motel. He said money is already “set aside to shelter individuals.”

“The county is mandated by New York State to provide anyone who’s homeless with shelter,” said Mr. Grattan.

Mr. Gibson and Mr. Grattan reiterated that they and the Galvan Foundation are still receiving comments from the community and motel’s neighbors and working to address their concerns. Mr. Grattan said the county Health and Human Services Committee was scheduled to discuss the proposal at its February 20 meeting.

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