Funding approval being requested for county overnight homeless shelter in Belmont

Belmont site for proposed homeless night-time warming shelter at 66 Schuyler Street.

Allegany County, NY, lawmakers will be asked this week to recommend a $194,370 contract, which is drawing questions from the Village of Belmont, to establish an overnight shelter for the homeless in the residential area of the village’s central business district.

Social Services Commissioner Edna Kayes is requesting the county board’s Human Services Committee to agree to a proposal with REDY Youth Services of Warren, Ohio, to use Healing Waters facilities at 66 Schuyler Street (State Route 19) for what the county is terming an overnight warming center, together with an additional $20,616 to ACCORD, a Belmont human services agency, to provide followup assistance.

Kayes, County Administrator Carissa Knapp, and County Attorney Allison Carrow appeared before the Belmont Village Board last month to answer questions about the project which has been put on hold at that location due to zoning issues.

Some board members voiced displeasure with not knowing about the initiative until a codes officer was asked to perform a facilities inspection.

Ohio youth mentoring company would provide services
REDY is described as being in the process of purchasing the facility from Healing Waters, which has been a family community center offering kayak rentals along the Genesee River.

It already has been providing a community-based mentoring program at the site during the day. County legislators also will be asked Wednesday to renew a $247,000 contract for those services.

Kayes told village board members that REDY has no prior experience in operating an overnight shelter which will provide sleeping cots for 18-year-olds and above when the temperatures reach Code Blue status of 32 degrees or lower, including wind chills, conditions which already have occurred several times this winter.

Any county individual who is without shelter during such periods can call Social Services or emergency services to access the facility, she said. Occupants would be released each morning, when employees of her department and ACCORD appear to attempt to develop a more permanent solution for each need.

Homeless currently housed at county motels
The homeless currently are housed at area motels, Kayes said, but the state, which is funding all of the costs, are seeking to have counties develop permanent locations. Families wouldn’t be housed at the facility, which would be staffed all night.

Although village board members, Planning Board members, and observers present at least month’s meeting recognized the need for shelter for the homeless, concerns were expressed about the area chosen and the lack of communication by the county.

Assertions were made that the property frontage is narrow, with a shared driveway with the house next door, residential neighbors are located immediately to the east and across the street, and persons being brought into the village from other parts of the county for an overnight stay then have potential to be released each day to the village streets before potentially returning each evening to the warning center shelter.

The Social Services Commissioner said that only one or two persons have been housed previously at motel locations on any one night but couldn’t guarantee numbers at the proposed facility.

Knapp said that individuals are supposed to stay at the shelter for the entire night and not come and go, although they would be outside if they are smoking, with no drugs or alcohol allowed on premises. She admitted, however, that if someone leaves and then wants to return, it is assumed, under Code Blue provisions, that they would have to be re-admitted.

Homeless issues already at other county locations
Concerns also were expressed in regard to significant problems which have been reported in the Village of Wellsville about the homeless population, along with ongoing news reports of issues related to homeless at motels in the county.

Kayes said she is unaware that any of those issues to date have involved individuals who have been housed under the county’s warming shelter program.

County officials were told that an application for a certificate of occupancy would need to be made to the zoning officer before the property was used for a shelter.

Since such use isn’t covered under the zoning law for either business or residential purposes, REDY would need to plead, if it chooses, to overturn a denial to a village appeals body which would make a decision following a public hearing.

The village board meets in regular session at 7PM Monday, January 2, at Village Hall, with it not being determined immediately whether further discussion or status is on the agenda..
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