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Homeless moving inside, but sometimes to abandoned buildings

Homeless advocates in Onondaga County say there are no known individuals sleeping outside at this time. 

But while agencies and advocates have gotten homeless individuals to sleep inside during the dead of winter, they have heard that some are moving instead into abandoned buildings. And that is not a good alternative, according to Dan Sieberg, chair of the Housing and Homeless Coalition of Syracuse and Onondaga County.

“In the past people have attempted to start small fires to keep warm, and clearly this is a huge concern and can be dangerous to their livelihood,” said Sieberg.

He says social workers and homeless advocates are trying to get those individuals out of these abandoned structures. He says it all comes down to the daily interactions social workers and homeless advocates have with the people on the streets.

“You gain the trust and you hopefully can ask the question ‘where are you staying tonight’ and sometimes our clients will reveal that. Say, ‘I’m staying over in that building,’ and that’s when we try to divert them and encourage them to not do that,” he said.

And, Sieberg says Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s initiative to get the homeless of the street in freezing temperatures hasn’t changed the way agencies in Onondaga County go about dealing with the homeless. But Sieberg says any mention of the issue is good.

“I think it’s a good effort to say, ‘hey, this is not acceptable, and we want to make sure that New Yorkers are not sleeping outside on any given night.’” 


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.