FULTON, NY â€“ Homelessness in Oswego County, the majority of Oswego County residents have no idea how serious the problem is.
However, those who work for human services agencies are well aware of the problem and are working to raise the communityâ€™s awareness of homelessness in Oswego County.
COACH, County of Oswego Advocates Challenging Homelessness, is Oswego Countyâ€™s Continuum of Care Committee.
Comprised of a cross section of representatives from Oswego Countyâ€™s human service agencies, local elected officials, concerned community members and government officials, COACH works to find effective ways to address the issue of homelessness in Oswego County.
To help access the problem Oswego County COACH recently completed its annual Point In Time Survey.
Mandated by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, the survey is a concise one-day effort that serves to raise the awareness of homelessness and help compile an approximate number of those who are homeless or are housing vulnerable in Oswego County.
The comprehensive survey touched not only on residents living situations but also their employment status.
The results provided a useful overview of homelessness in Oswego County.
â€œWe found many that of the statistics, while no surprise to us, will be quite an eye-opener to those who are unaware of the homelessness that does exist in Oswego County,â€ said committee member and executive director of the United Way of Greater Oswego County, Melanie Trexler.
Statistics compiled from the survey indicated that:
- 44% of respondents had been without a regular, safe place to live more than 4 times in past 3 years
- 26% of respondents live in an emergency or other housing program
- 27% of respondents are between the ages of 18 and 21
- 50% of respondents are disabled
- 36% of respondents were homeless because they were unable to pay their rent, 14% of those were due to the loss of their job
Executive director of OCO, Diane Cooper-Currier, who serves on the COACH committee, said that the survey is one of the first steps in evaluating the homeless situation in Oswego County and commencing the process of accessing federal funding to combat and alleviate homelessness.
â€œThe survey confirmed what many of us had suspected, that there is a real need for additional services to the homeless in Oswego County. Federal funds are available through the HUD Program. The results of this survey provides us with valuable information that we can use to attempt to access federal funds for projects that will help us combat homelessness in Oswego County such as establishing an emergency shelter, providing supportive housing, and offering affordable housing that has a supportive aspect,â€ said Cooper-Currier.
COACH committee member Susan Pope of the Syracuse / Oswego Chapter of the American Red Cross, knows first-hand how a tragedy can suddenly result in a homeless family.
â€œMany of the people we see at the American Red Cross branch office in Oswego are homeless as the result of a house fire. Budgets are so tight that many families donâ€™t have renterâ€™s insurance and when everything is lost in a fire, they have to start all over again. When finances are already stretched just to make ends meet, there isnâ€™t enough left over to refurnish a home and buy clothes to replace the ones lost in the fire. Families and friends help out where they can but when it comes to finding a security deposit, for instance, thatâ€™s when the COACH agencies can really help make a difference,â€ she said.
According to Trexler, COACH is determined to continue its mission of educating the community and developing and implementing an effective plan for ending homelessness.
â€œHomelessness in rural communities such as Oswego County looks much different than it does in large urban areas. Homelessness in our communities often goes unnoticed, as the homeless are not necessarily living on our streets. They are shuffling between relatives and friends homes, sleeping in cars or sleeping in tents and makeshift shelters in secluded areas. We need to convey this to community members and encourage them to get involved by advocating, volunteering, or donating to help us combat homelessness in Oswego County,â€ explained Trexler.
For more information, call Trexler at 593-1900.