JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) – Over the past year, the City of Jamestown has noticed an increase in the homeless population. Now, the pressure is on for officials to find a solution to this problem, before the temperatures drop.
Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist spoke to WNY News Now one-on-one about what he, and others, are doing to try and create a safe and warm environment for the homeless, before the winter season hits.
“We’re trying to work together with all of our providers, with our faith-based groups, to try to create some emergency sheltering during the winter time and to be able to provide a space where we know people are going to be at and be able to bring the resources that people need and want to connect to right to them,” said Sundquist.
Right now, the city is not equipped to handle such a large number of people on the street.
“We used to have a small homeless population, a census of maybe 25 to 30 that we would normally count every couple of months. We’re starting to see larger encampments, upwards of 70 people or more,” explained Sundquist, “The challenge has changed. We used to be able to provide services for individuals and resources and all of our organizations are set up for a smaller amount of people.”
Currently, there are two shelters in operation with more to come.
“One is for men and another for women, mostly of domestic violence, so you’re actually not looking at a lot. When we had shelters that would go up to about 20 people, it would be more than enough to house a smaller homeless population,” said Sundquist. “There are two other shelters in the works, one for women and for kids and another for various different types of individuals.”
With winter approaching quickly, there is a new plan to temporarily house those who need it, but the Mayor recognizes this program is not without flaws.
“Currently the county uses a program called ‘Code Blue’. So once the temperature drops below 32 degrees, individuals can be housed in hotels, motels, and other emergency shelters. In addition, the county has a bunch of warming centers that allow you to go, get warm, but then you’re back out on the street,” explained Sundquist.
In the end, there are two goals officials have in mind. In the short term, they want to provide emergency shelter and resources for the homeless come winter time. As for the long term, the hope is to connect individuals with resources that will help them get back on their feet, and into a more stable situation.