© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Nonprofits move forward with a new way to help the homeless

Lei Han
Flickr, Creative Commons
homeless tent camp

This week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded more than $42 million to homeless housing programs across New York state. Organizations in Watertown, Geneva, Utica and Syracuse will receive funding. The effort to bolster housing nonprofits is part of the nation’s strategy to prevent and end homelessness.

Maureen Cean, who leads Transitional Living Services of Northern New York, based in Watertown, said housing programs have changed their strategy over the years.

“Traditionally the approach was if you take a person who is homeless and who isn’t complying with medication or won’t stay sober the first thing you have to do is comply with everything that social services wants them to do and after they’ve done all those things they are rewarded with housing,” Cean said.

Test cases and studies show that approach doesn’t work, according to Cean. She said now homeless housing groups follow the model known as Housing First.

“If you first meet the person’s needs of where their head is going to rest that night then that person’s likelihood of success of being able to say, ‘Okay I will go see my psychiatrist and take my meds. Okay maybe I won’t drink today.’ The chance of success in all those areas is definitely enhanced if they have a place to sleep first,” Cean said.

Cean's agency will get around $126,000. The money will go towards maintaining the apartments and homes in St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis Counties that house the chronically homeless. People who’ve been homeless for more than a year are considered chronically homeless.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, that represents about 20 percent of the national homeless population.

Cean says the federal money will also help people straighten out their lives.