Old school to become new housing for homeless

wwny Old school to become new housing for homeless

OGDENSBURG, N.Y. (WWNY) - Long-term homeless housing is coming to Ogdensburg's former Lincoln School. A city official says a lawsuit over the issue is now in the past.

A $4.5 million piece of the puzzle just fell into place. A state grant for that amount will fund construction of 20 apartments for homeless people at the former Lincoln School.

“We know how many folks in our county need safe, affordable housing and this is going to be an opportunity to provide them with that,” said David Bayne, Step-By-Step executive director.

They'll be the first apartments available on a long-term or permanent basis for homeless people in St. Lawrence County. Officials say the homeless here can be invisible.

“Here our folks are surfing from couches to couches, or from family to family, or from friends to friends,” said Bayne.

The plan has been in the works for five years. Step-By-Step serves people with mental health issues. Clients are blunt when asked what they would do without it.

“I would have nothing to do. … I would probably attend the library. But it wouldn't be as entertaining and educational,” said Carla Nunes, Step-By-Step client.

“Without this place I wouldn't know what to do. I'd go crazy,” said Walter Fuller, Step-By-Step client.

People living in the new apartments will be those who may not be able to live independently without support.

There was opposition five years ago, when Step-By-Step bought the building. The organization had to sue the city in federal court for the right to move in.

Step-By-Step won the lawsuit, settling with the city and moving in. Step-By-Step will seek planning approval for the apartments. Some neighbors may still have reservations, but not all.

“I think that it's really good, like it will bring a positive outlook for Ogdensburg. It will help get people off the streets. It's just overall going to make Ogdensburg a better place,” said Casey Ritchie, Knox Street resident.

If you want to see inside the former school, tours will be given December 5. You can also catch Step-By-Step’s annual holiday show that day.

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