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Officials brainstorm on battling homelessness

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 5:48 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Breaking down homelessness in Jefferson County - officials want to know the scope and the issues of those who don’t have a place to live.

It was eye opening in August when people in Watertown were displaced from their Factory Street apartment building, forced to live in a makeshift tent city

At a summit in Watertown Wednesday, director of Jefferson County Community Services Tim Ruetten laid out how it happened.

“That is a whole different issue than homelessness in and of itself,” he said.

What happened at Factory Street has brought homelessness into the spotlight.

More than 30 non profits and organizations in Jefferson County gathered to examine the scope of homelessness in the area

“We have to have a coordinated emergency response that really includes multiple entities throughout our community,” said Ruetten.

The summit helped to start that conversation. The group is looking at the strengths and resources already out there as well as gaps in services.

“Here in this community, we are really good about collaborating, but now we need to up our game right and maybe collaborate even more,” said Dawn Cole, Watertown Urban Mission.

County leaders hope this is just one of many talks to come.

“The real expertise in the room is not us, it’s them. And so the more we can help mold this in the direction of problem solving, that’s really what our objective is,” said Jefferson County Administrator Bob Hagemann.

Hagemann says they’ll create smaller groups to tackle specific issues that pertain to homelessness and bring them back to the full group again for another discussion later this year.

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