WATERTOWN — Transitional Living Services of Northern New York will receive $2.5 million in funds from the state in an effort to provide better services and more housing opportunities for the area’s homeless population.
Recent events, including a fire at the Rainbow Motel in Pamelia and the closing of the Relax Inn on Route 11 in the town of Watertown and 661 Factory St. Inn & Lodging in Watertown, have resulted in even fewer housing options for vulnerable populations.
In hopes of addressing this problem, 60 new housing units will be constructed to serve low-income individuals and those with mental illnesses or substance use issues.
“Having shelter is the most basic human need — Where are you going to lay your head at night? Where will you get your next meal from? These are the most basic things that you need to be able to live your life,” said Maureen Cean, executive director of Transitional Living Services. “Not having a stable home to live in impacts a person’s whole life, and if we don’t provide our citizens with at least that most basic need, then they will forever remain economically disadvantaged.”
The first step toward providing more housing was securing funding in the form of a grant that will pay $500,000 to Transitional Living Services over a five-year period, to be used for staff and services for those who will eventually live in the housing units. The grant has been awarded, and the money will be given to the organization once the housing units are built and ready to be staffed.
Now, the work begins to find a site to build the units and secure the funding necessary to do so.
Transitional Living Services, Neighbors of Watertown and CREDO Community Center are partnering to bring the project to fruition, with Neighbors handling the housing aspects, and Transitional Living Services and CREDO providing the services once the housing units have been built.
“Now that we have this award reservation, they would like us to have the housing proposal done and submitted within about a year’s time and that’s the part that we’re partnering with Neighbors of Watertown on, because we got talking about it one day when the application was out there and available,” Ms. Cean said. “We said, ‘Hey, we like to do services and you really like to do housing; instead of either one of us trying to do the whole thing, why don’t we just partner up on that? And then we also reached out to CREDO because TLS’ expertise is serving homeless people and people with mental illness, and CREDO has great expertise in serving folks with substance use disorders.”
Since those two populations are what have been designated as in need of improved housing, she said it made sense to bring CREDO on board, sort of a first-of-its-kind partnership for the organizations, and that working collaboratively is important for delivering quality services.
There is currently no funding allocated for the actual housing units, 30 of which will be targeted for those with mental illness or substance-use disorders, and 30 for those who qualify as low income. Once a site has been chosen, a proposal will be put together, and then Neighbors of Watertown will go out to the organizations that typically fund its housing projects. Once they get their backers, the units can be built.
According to Ms. Cean, one of the state’s primary goals is to ensure that people are housed in the community in an integrated manner, integrated fully within their community without any stigma attached.
There will be a meeting later this month to discuss where to build the housing units. Ms. Cean said all organizations involved would like the site to be downtown because of its proximity to other services, as well as transportation and entertainment. With a downtown location, she said staff would be able to be nearby as well.
“This is something that the three organizations are very excited to be getting into because we each bring something very important to the table, and we hope to turn that into a better outcome for the people that will be served through this housing and services,” Ms. Cean said.
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Sounds like corporate welfare to me.
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