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Fewer homeless in central NY in 2015

Housing and Homeless Coalition

The number of homeless people in central New York is down, according to a report on the state of Homelessness in 2015 for Syracuse and Onondaga County. 

There were about 140 fewer individuals in homeless shelters in Syracuse this year than last, according to Melissa Marrone, the coordinator of the Onondaga County’s Housing and Homeless Coalition. She says it’s an indication that new strategies for getting people off the street are working. For example, a “housing first” policy that brings individuals with substance abuse problems into housing.

"The old train of thought was that you can stay in shelter, you have to be clean and sober before you go into a housing program. Not the case anymore. So we’re bringing you into housing, and then we’re working on some of those things with you,” said Marrone.

Marrone also says a revamping of Onondaga County’s Department of Social Services has helped, as well as more communication between the agencies that deal with the homeless. 

But there are still challenges. Marrone says the statistics show almost 200 homeless teens without permanent housing, some of them young women who are pregnant, or with a small child. 

And going forward, the coalition wants to make an impact on the concentration of poverty among minorities in the city of Syracuse, where most of the affordable housing exists. Marrone says the coalition uses federal funds to expand affordable housing, and they’ll begin spreading that beyond city limits.

"Eighty percent of our new projects are going to be in the city, and 20 percent  are going to be in the suburbs to try and really make a dent in that segregation.”

She admits suburban housing creates a host of other issues, including jobs and transportation, but suggests small changes like this can help chip away at the problem.

One other notable trend from 2015 according to Marrone, almost all of the individuals who live on the streets now in Syracuse have an issue with synthetic marijuana, or spike, which makes it especially difficult to bring them inside.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.