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Local Agencies Working to Address Homelessness

FULTON, NY – In an ongoing effort to combat homelessness in Oswego County, COACH (County of Oswego Advocates Challenging Homelessness), Oswego County’s Continuum of Care Committee, is closely reviewing the results of its annual Point in Time survey.

A one-day count of homeless individuals in Oswego County, the Point in Time survey, mandated by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, is a concise effort area human service agencies that serves to raise the awareness of homelessness and helps to compile an approximate number of those who are homeless, or are housing vulnerable, in Oswego County.

According to COACH Committee member Kristin LaBarge, the Point in Time Survey is an effective way to create an accurate picture of homelessness in Oswego County.

“When someone thinks of homelessness they envision people living and sleeping on the street.  In Oswego County it’s not that way.  In our county, homelessness is not as recognizable.  The vast majority of homeless in Oswego County are those with no permanent housing who are temporarily living with a family member or a friend and bounce from house to house,” explained LaBarge.

As part of the Point In Time survey, agencies whose programs address homelessness interviewed those that they serve and compiled a report filled with valuable data that helps COACH create a snapshot of what exactly homelessness does look like in Oswego County.  Additionally, outreach teams collected information from homeless individuals they were able to find on the streets and in the parks.

While the Point In Time survey is a one day event, and may not be a 100% reflection, LaBarge said that it is very good representation of the homelessness that exists every day and provides valuable information.  “When conducting the surveys we converse with these individuals to establish where they are living; are they safe and stable; are they at risk of losing their housing; are they being sheltered or receiving assistance; what is their household makeup, children / adults, etc.; is there a disability or diagnosis that it is limiting their chances obtaining housing; etc.  This provides us with a clear picture of what the needs are and what services are lacking when it comes to combating homelessness,” said LaBarge.

One of the most telling results of the 2013 Point In Time Survey was that 76% of those surveyed were homeless, or at imminent risk of becoming homeless, with 46% of these respondents having been without a regular, stable, safe place to live more than 4 times in the last 3 years.

These numbers and others from the survey point to the pressing need for homeless services in Oswego County.

“While OCO offers comprehensive homelessness services and other agencies address specific needs such as food pantries, our human service agencies need to come together to develop a plan to effectively combat homelessness.  The information from the Point In Times survey is critical to helping COACH and its sub-committees identify ways to address the needs that exist and compile data that will be beneficial in procuring the necessary funding to establish and implement these programs,” said LaBarge.

One tool that will play an important role in pursuit of funding is an extensive database that OCO is currently developing for its own homeless programming.

The Homeless Management Information System is a Federal initiative to accurately count homeless individuals and track those that are receiving services.

While the database is still in the planning stages for the county level, LaBarge said that when complete, it would provide a wealth of information that will be available to any Oswego County human services agency in the continuum working with the homeless population in search of funding for new programs or expansion of current programs, which would allow them to serve more homeless individuals.

Comprised of representatives from Oswego County’s human service agencies, local elected officials, concerned community members and government officials.

The COACH committee works to raise the awareness of, and find effective ways to address, the issue of homelessness including contacting state and federal officials to plead their case and discuss the possibilities of procuring state and federal funds to help combat homelessness.

“Oswego County is facing some tremendous fiscal challenges when it comes to addressing the problem of homelessness and the contributing factors that precedes it.  Basic needs are rising while funding is decreasing.  COACH is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to successfully address the issue and significantly lower the amount of homeless individuals in Oswego County,” added COACH member and Executive Director of OCO, Diane Cooper-Currier.

For more information on COACH and its efforts to address homelessness in Oswego County you may contact your United Way office at 315-593-1900.