New York state has one of the highest concentrations of homeless people in the country.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 91,897 people in New York experienced homelessness on any given night. This accounts for 46 people out of every 10,000 residents.

Most of the homelessness occurs in New York City, but Northern New York isn’t without its problems. The alliance reports that 96 people in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties were homeless on any given night. This is 3.8 people per every 10,000 residents.

The causes of homelessness in the United States are complicated and varied, but they often intertwine.

Poverty is one of the main reasons. People who cannot secure good-paying jobs frequently aren’t able to afford suitable housing.

This is exacerbated by medical issues, particularly if they don’t have insurance. Mental health plays a role in homelessness as well as does domestic violence. All of these factors are compounded in communities with few options for affordable housing.

This causes even more problems.

Children who don’t have stable housing often do poorly in school; food insecurity also is usually part of the mix. People may be reluctant to leave their homes even if they live with abusive partners. Individuals plagued by huge medical bills find it difficult to keep roofs over their heads.

The good news is that there are resources for people who need assistance. The Watertown Urban Mission is creating space within its Impossible Dream Thrift Store to let individuals know what’s available for them or loved ones.

“The doors of the Watertown Urban Mission’s Impossible Dream Thrift Store have temporarily closed to allow for construction of a new space geared toward helping those in need. About one quarter of the store will be transformed into a Community Assessment Resource or CARE Center, where those who need help with housing, emergency or otherwise, will find assistance from a number of programs in a ‘one-stop shop’ format,” according to a story published Sunday by the Watertown Daily Times. “As construction is ongoing, it’s unclear as to when the Impossible Dream store will reopen. With funding made available through the CARES Act, a nominal portion of which is being applied to launch the CARE Center, the Jefferson County Department of Social Services subcontracted with the mission to coordinate rapid rehousing and homeless prevention programming referred to as Emergency Solutions Grant CV.”

Organizations will be able to use the CARE Center to provide information on how people can track down help with housing issues. This problem has grown worse over the past year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Dawn M. Cole, executive director for the Watertown Urban Mission, said officials hope to have the facility open by mid-May.

“More than just a shared space, the CARE Center’s onsite programs will have access to a common assessment tool, intake process and data collection software that will help match those seeking services to the most applicable program to meet their household needs,” the article reported. Opportunities will exist for other interested housing or supportive services programming in the community to house outreach or program workers full- or part-time onsite.”

This is an excellent use of resources on the part of the Watertown Urban Mission and its partners. We commend them on their work to reduce homelessness and wish them success with this venture.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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