Written By: John DeRousie, Custom Marketing Solutions
FULTON, NY – Members of COACH, Oswego County’s Continuum of Care Committee focusing on homelessness, have announced that the committee is looking to establish creative methods to address the issue of homelessness in Oswego County. One of the most important steps in this process is the annual Point In Time Survey, an annual one-day count of homeless individuals conducted during the last week in January. Mandated by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Point In Time Survey is a concise effort that serves to raise the awareness of homelessness and helps compile an approximate number of those who are homeless, or are housing vulnerable, in Oswego County.
Members of COACH, which stands for County of Oswego Advocates Challenging Homelessness, includes representatives from Oswego County’s human service agencies, local elected officials, concerned community members and government officials. The committee works to raise the awareness of, and find effective ways to address, the issue of homelessness in Oswego County.
The Point In Time Survey had human service agencies throughout Oswego County, with the assistance of COACH volunteers, survey their consumers not only on their living situation but also their employment status and their availability to transportation. While the survey’s results are not 100% reflective of the situation, it does provide an excellent starting point for the members of COACH as they work to address homelessness in Oswego County.
Executive Director of OCO, Diane Cooper-Currier, who serves as co-chair of the COACH committee, said that the Point In Time Survey is one of the first steps in evaluating the homeless situation in Oswego County and commencing the process of accessing federal and state funding to combat and alleviate homelessness. “There is a real need for additional services to the homeless in Oswego County such as emergency shelter, supportive housing, and affordable housing that has a supportive aspect,” said Cooper-Currier. “The Point In Time Survey provides us with valuable information that we can use as we attempt to access these funds for projects that will help us combat homelessness in Oswego County.”
COACH Committee member, and Executive Director of United Way of Greater Oswego County, Melanie Trexler, said that the survey showed some startling statistics regarding the growing issue of homelessness in Oswego County. “Point in Time Survey indicated that the number of individuals living in poverty in Oswego County is 14%, well above the state average of 8.6%. The survey also found that more than 200 individuals were homeless and had no safe, stable place to live,” explained Trexler.
To address the serious issue of homelessness in Oswego County, COACH is in contact with 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,” said Susan Pope, Chapter Services Associate with the American Red Cross of Central New York “Basic needs are rising while funding is decreasing. HEAP, which provides heating assistance and FEMA, which provides funds for food subsidy, have both been decreased by 50%.”
Community member, Roxanne Gillen added that Homeless Intervention Program funding through NYS OTDA has also been reduced by almost 50%, and funding for programs offered through Oswego County human service agencies that focus on a number of contributing factors is also being dramatically reduced. “These programs provide assistance in combating contributing factors of homelessness such as: the number of individuals living in poverty, the drop-out rate, and the unemployment rate, all of which are higher than the NYS average,” said Gillen.
Trexler said that these factors, combined with statistics that indicate that in Oswego County, 20% of the residents have less than a high school education and no GED, 56% are employed in low-income, low-wage jobs, and 36% are uninsured, clearly demonstrate that Oswego County is in dire need of funding support.
“COACH is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to successfully address the issue significantly lower the amount of homeless individuals in Oswego County,” added Cooper-Currier.
The next Point in Time Survey will be conducted January 2012.
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.