Times Herald-Record: Homeless, Housing Issues Aired During Roundtable

Originally published in Times Herald-Record

On March 12, 2020, Mike Randall of the Times Herald-Record published an article that covered a roundtable discussion on homelessness and housing insecurity hosted by the Senate Housing Committee, chaired by Senator Kavanagh, the Social Services Committee, chaired by Roxanne Persaud, and local Senator Jen Metzger. The full text of this story is below; the original version is available at the link above.

Homeless, Housing Issues Aired During Roundtable
By Mike Randall
March 12, 2020

FERNDALE - Homelessness can touch anyone at any time, and it knows no municipal boundaries.

It is just as likely to happen in a rural setting as in the middle of a city.

Those were among the points made by speakers at a roundtable discussion of homelessness and housing insecurity convened by state Sen. Jen Metzger on Thursday at the CVI building in the Town of Liberty.

She was joined by Senate colleagues Brian Kavanagh and Roxanne Persaud, who represent parts of New York City. Persaud is chair of the Senate’s Committee on Social Services.

The panel included about two dozen representatives of social service, community and government agencies who deal with the homeless problem in one way or another.

Persaud said many people have an incorrect impression of who lives in homeless shelters.

“I’ve visited shelters, and they are not people who are drunks or addicts,” Persaud said. “They are families. One woman I met worked for social services herself. She was living in a shelter because her landlord raised her rent and she could no longer afford to live (in her apartment).”

Melissa Stickle, director of community services for Sullivan County, said the homelessness problem is getting worse, not better.

“There is a great need for adequate housing,” Stickle said. “A lot of what is available is substandard. And a lot of landlords won’t take (federal) Section 8 subsidies because they can’t choose who their tenants are.”

Many tenants are afraid to challenge their landlord about poor conditions, several speakers said.

Lucy Turner of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley summed up their attitude in these words: “I know conditions are terrible but I just have to deal with it.”

The Rev. Norman Graves, pastor of the New Beginnings Community Worship Center in Liberty, said sometimes low-income people make too much money to get into a low-income housing project, but don’t make enough to afford anything else.

His son, who earns barely more than a minimum-wage salary driving a truck, is one of them.

“Our youth are running out of here,” Graves said. “They might have a decent starter job, but they can’t find a decent place to live.”

Turner said a common denominator in the discussion appeared to be money.

Kavanagh said two similar pieces of legislation currently pending in Senate committees – bills S2375 and S7628 – would address that by providing help paying the rent to families or individuals who are eligible for public assistance and are facing homelessness due to eviction or other causes.

He urged those present to lobby for their passage.