On MLK Day, Utica Housing Authority reaches out to homeless, as problem increases
Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and in honor of the civil rights leader, the Utica Municipal Housing Authority is teaming up with AmeriCorps volunteers for a homeless outreach program. The goal is to get homeless people into shelters and eventually, permanent housing.
John Furman, director of programs for the housing authority, said volunteers will be distributing blessing bags to the homeless filled with warm socks, water, granola bars and other food to earn their trust and support.
“This event is critically important in raising public awareness of the need for more affordable housing, more support services for homeless people," Furman said. "Homelessness is a problem, which is becoming more critical as rent increases and the housing market tightens.”
At any given time, there are around 175 sheltered homeless people and about 25-30 homeless people living on the streets in Oneida County.
“Homelessness in our area has increased markedly during the past two years," Furman said. "The length of shelters is up. Between the high poverty rates and the lack of affordable housing, we’re witnessing increases in homelessness.”
Last year, the housing authority was able to personally assist about 50 homeless people in Utica.
“We found a group of homeless folks, living in a tent near the New York State Thruway in Utica," Furman said. "We were able to rehouse them into permanent housing through the Utica Housing Authority. They were so happy to be housed in a place where it was warm.”
The housing authority also donates more than $60,000 a year in beds and furniture to its clients. Furman said they are also looking for volunteers year-round that can teach job and financial literacy skills, and be involved in after school programs.
A 24-hour support line for the housing authority can be reached at 315-982-3731.