Navigating homelessness in Clinton County

Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 10:32 PM EST
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - As the colder months roll in, concern for the homeless population is on the rise. In New York’s Clinton County, emergency shelter programs are pushing capacity.

“There’s not a lot of places out there,” said Plattsburgh resident Brianna Guerin.

Guerin struggled to find affordable housing, after utilizing New York’s homeless hotel room for a period of time.

“I’ve been to hotel and hotel then they put me in a cockroach place. I had to find a place because I was pregnant and I wanted my daughter to be in a good environment,” she said.

She says many landlords and property managers were wary to lease to someone accepting state assistance.

“Some people don’t accept DSS people, like, a lot of people have DSS paying and they’re against that,” Guerin continued. “I don’t think it’s cool at all.”

Clinton County Social Service’s Deputy Commissioner Rich Holcomb says they do their best to help people in the transition to permanent housing, adding they need all the space they can get in hotels and shelters. Holcomb says they spend roughly $800,000 on local housing each year.

“The capacity is being pushed to the limits,” Holcomb said.

Right now, 99 households, ranging from individuals to families, are staying in emergency shelter provided by the state. That’s slightly more than in January of this year when DSS was assisting 91 households.

“There’s just not enough affordable housing. Many of the people that we work with, their monthly income is a total of $850,” Holcomb said. “A single-room apartment in Plattsburgh is going for $900.”

Over the summer, DSS does a bit more leg work to make sure people don’t have anywhere to go. That includes reaching out to family and friends the individual might be able to stay with, and checking income. But during the colder months, when Code Blue is in effect, they don’t turn anyone away.

“Homelessness in Clinton County doesn’t look like what people normally associate homelessness with,” he explained. “You know there’s not a lot of people sleeping on streets or in doorways to shops and stuff.”

Holcomb says most homelessness in Clinton County takes place in Plattsburgh, given that it is a population center. WCAX News reached out to Mayor Chris Rosenquest, D-Plattsburgh, earlier this week to ask how the city was managing the problem. He was unavailable for an interview but sent a statement saying:

“Unfortunately the city of Plattsburgh does not have the department, facilities, or skillet to provide the necessary social services that would address this issue. However, we are very close partners with area agencies that do provide these emergency and support services. Our “on the street” staff who have regular interaction with residents are able to make direct referrals and connections to those are want or need support.”

Those living in Plattsburgh say even if homelessness in the city hasn’t changed drastically, it is becoming more noticeable.

“I see it,” said Plattsburgh resident Sophia Gottschall “Not as much as in bigger areas. Probably a little more in recent months.”

“Around here we have some empty buildings that could be converted to homeless shelters of sorts, but around here I don’t see anyone doing anything or making awareness of that,” said Eddie Vega, another Plattsburgh resident.

Anyone experiencing homelessness can reach out to Clinton County Social Services 24/7 by calling 877-743-5871. They also partner with ETC Housing and Community Connections.

Holcomb says so far, they haven’t turned anyone away.

“Homelessness in Clinton County sometimes gets hidden, but it is something we work with every day and it is a major issue,” Holcomb said.