JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) — With spring on the horizon and emergency shelters wrapping up operations, plans are underway in Jamestown to continue support for those living on the street.
After code blue funding runs out in two months, Jamestown’s emergency homeless shelters will close. However, those on the front lines of the city’s response say this is not the end of the road.
A forum took place Wednesday to discuss needs of the homeless community.
Housing was an obvious solution. One proposed idea would connect those in need with private landlords to establish more transitional housing. Earlier this week, city hall already submitted an application for one million dollars in federal funding to support similar plans.
In addition to residential housing, plans to remodel parts of the Gateway Center, located at 31 Water Street, into affordable apartments is also in the works.
“At the MHA, we have begun to explore what it would be like for us to continue with a space for folks who are experiencing homelessness. But for us to go forward with that, that would require quite honestly I think a substantial capital investment which we wouldn’t have to do with code blue which is to cover the cold periods,” explains Steven Cobb, Executive Director of the Mental Health Association.
While the project is good news for the Mental Health Association, which operates the Gateway Center emergency shelter, it would mean the facility will need a new home.
Across town, the Love Joy Free Methodist Church also opened their doors to those in need.
“The reality is, when you get to hear their story and recognize how trapped they feel. So whether it is emotional distress that they are unable to modulate or it is practical situations like can’t get a drivers license because they don’t have an address. For two weeks we had a poor woman who was trying to get a job and she couldn’t get a job because she didn’t have a phone, she didn’t have a place where employers could call her,” says Dodi Mcintyre, lead pastor of Joy Fellowship Free Methodist Church.
Discussing what barriers someone faces can help expose gaps in the system that keep people trapped in homelessness. However, these are not the same for everyone.
“The path is different for every single person. And the problem is, we are trying to apply a prescription that is one size fits all and it doesn’t fit all. And so there are a lot of individuals who are falling through the cracks because we’re trying to use a plan that should work for everybody but doesn’t work for everybody,” says Mcintyre.
This winter’s shelters provided more than just a warm place to sleep, but also, a path forward.
“There’s a form that we sit down with with our participants that identifies areas of possible goals that they would want to work on. So that would be vocational areas and housing, and family areas, and health areas, and physical areas. So we identify what those goals are, our coaches we break them down into small steps, achievable steps, with our participants out in the community. Actually out with them helping them to achieve those goals,” explains Cobb.
After the shelters opened this winter, the Mental Health Association in Jamestown noted a fifty percent increase in demand for their counseling services.