One answer for homelessness in north country: new housing

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 4:19 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Jefferson County has a problem with homelessness.

One answer may be new housing.

Last summer, the problem went public in a big way when a rooming house on Factory Street in Watertown was condemned, leaving dozens of people with no place to go. For several days, they simply camped out, next to the rooming house.

Now, Transitional Living Services of Northern New York has received a $2.5 million grant from the state to use for services for homeless persons, and they’re partnering with CREDO Community Center and Neighbors of Watertown to maximize its potential.

“The discussion of what happened at 661 Factory Street, the fire at Rainbow Motel, and then the closure of the Relax Inn on Washington Street; it was very easy to demonstrate the impact those losses had on the housing situation in Watertown,” said Maureen Cean, Executive Director of Transitional Living Services.

The goal is to build new housing for the homeless. 60 units in total, with half set aside for those with special needs.

“It could be any variety of needs. Persons with mental illness, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, various other target populations,” Cean said.

The $2.5 million will be given in increments of $500,000 over five years, and is to be used for staff and services to the special needs people who will use that housing.

With that grant is secured, next up is getting housing, and funding for the development of it. Neighbors of Watertown will handle that aspect, and needs to pick a site.

“I’d like to see them sited in downtown Watertown because of the growth of business and the easy walking distance to healthcare and other services,” Cean said.

The goal: to have contracts to build the housing in a year’s time.

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