Homelessness program set for March 13

Homelessness is an issue that many know exists, but few feel comfortable discussing.

On March 13, homelessness in Oswego County will be front and center as COACH, Oswego County’s continuum of Care committee, hosts a community forum from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Oswego County Health Department, 70 Bunner St., Oswego.

The Community Forum on Homelessness will offer the community the opportunity to hear the specifics on homelessness in Oswego County and learn of plans being developed to address the issue.

Doug Baldwin, case management supervisor with Oswego County Department of Social Services’ Division of Mental Hygiene, said the forum will bring together the full membership of COACH as well as members on COACH’s sub-committees.

“HUD has required all Continuum of Care committees throughout New York State to plan and implement a more formal organizational structure. This forum allows us to solicit input and ideas, as well as an opportunity to re-energize our membership,” Baldwin.

One subject to be addressed is the number of people that are homeless or at risk of homelessness in Oswego County.

“The results of a recent Point in Time survey that identified 280 people in one evening and the number of homeless individuals that have received services from Catholic Charities, Oswego County Opportunities, and the Department of Social Services, combined with the other people that meet the HUD definition of homelessness but are not captured, indicate that homelessness is a serious problem in our County,” Baldwin said.

The highlight of the forum will be a special presentation from William O’Connell, community and planning office director, HUD Buffalo Field Office. O’Connell, will share his experiences and how communities are responding and working together to address homelessness.

O’Connell, who has also headed the Continuum of Care initiative in Buffalo, will join COACH members to discuss strategies to prevent homelessness such as providing appropriate education and skills training, adequate employment opportunities, and a decent stock of affordable housing.

One of the key elements in meeting these challenges is establishing a clear picture of what homelessness looks like in Oswego County.

To accomplish this, COACH is in the planning process for a Homeless Management information System, which Baldwin aid will allow them to more accurately capture and quantify the true nature of homelessness in Oswego County.

Additionally, Baldwin said COACH is discussing plans to rapidly re-house the homeless in permanent affordable housing with necessary support services available as needed, and to provide staff to monitor and support homeless individuals in emergency housing situations, to foster rapid transitions.

“Homelessness is an issue that effects the entire community,” said COACH member and Oswego County Opportunities Executive Director Diane Cooper-Currier.  “I encourage human service agencies, community members, fraternal groups and other organizations to join us for this enlightening forum and learn how we can work together to alleviate homelessness in Oswego County.

For more information on the Community Forum on Homelessness, or to register contact Melanie Trexler, executive director, United Way of Greater Oswego County, at 593-1900 or at melanieunitedway@windstream.net.

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