County warming shelter funding endorsed but location may not be in Belmont

Allegany County Social Services Commissioner Edna Kayes discusses Code Blue
warming shelter facility at County Human Services Commitee meeting today.

BREAKING: A proposal to spend nearly $215,000 a year to establish a Code Blue warming center shelter is on its way to the Allegany County Board of Legislators next week but establishing it in the residential area of the Village of Belmont business district isn’t going with it.

The board’s Human Services Committee this afternoon approved a $194,370 contract with REDY Youth Services of Warren, Ohio, to establish a county-wide warming center for anyone needing to come in out of the cold when temperatures reach air or windchill temperatures of 32 degrees, with another $20,616 to ACCORD Corporation of Belmont for wraparound services to help people move to transitional housing the next day.

County Social Services Commissioner Edna Kayes told the committee she doesn’t want to be “antagonistic with anyone” in regard to the facility’s location but is committed to having such a service as soon as possible, something which is required and fully reimbursed by the state.

Kayes, County Administrator Carissa Knapp and County Attorney Allison Carrow had appeared at a village board meeting last month after local lawmakers there questioned the location for such a facility, only receiving notice of the potential project when a codes officer was asked to inspect the former Healing Waters building at 66 Schuyler Street (State Route 19) for building code compliance.

Facility not an authorized village use
As first reported over the weekend by Allegany Hope Community News, village officials found the project isn’t an authorized use within either the residential or business districts in the village, saying an application would need to be made for an occupancy permit and, when it likely is denied, would need to go through an appeals process, if an applicant chooses.

County legislators today indicated they had received communications from the village in regard to the project. The village reported at its regular board of trustees meeting Monday night that no application for an occupancy permit had been received since county officials appeared at its December meeting.

REDY reportedly is in the process of purchasing the Belmont building from Healing Waters, which has been a family community center offering kayak rentals along the Genesee River. The Ohio company already provides a community-based mentoring program at the site during the day, with the county committee voting this afternoon to renew a $247,000 contract for those services.

Kayes told county lawmakers that the shelter only would be open from 4:30PM to 8:30AM on Code Blue nights for anyone without shelter, including individuals who have lost their heat.

It would be fully staffed, overseeing up to eight individuals, with cots being provided.

Shelter can be established at any location
The Commissioner told legislators that REDY is willing to establish a shelter at any location in county under the proposed contract, with ACCORD also providing followup services at such site.

County legislators confirmed several times during today’s discussion that the contracts only are for a warming shelter at any location and not specific to Belmont.

Legislator Dwight (MIke) Healy of Belmont said it seemed to him that such a facility needs to be in a location which has services for the homeless, such as food, medical and more which aren’t widely available in the village.

Legislator James Rumfelt, who also is police chief in Andover, asked how people get to the shelter, noting that many homeless already are on the streets of Wellsville and other locations.

Kayes said those using the facilities are required to get there themselves, but state police have provided transportation at times. She said this hasn’t been a problem when individuals have been housed at motels such as at Cuba.

The Commissioner also was asked about requirements for such a facility and said it just needs to have room for eight cots and oversight staff space, heat and restrooms, with a kitchen being beneficial but not required.
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