Some unhappy with upcoming changes at temporary homeless shelter

Published: Dec. 30, 2022 at 3:41 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - Watertown’s temporary homeless shelter is preparing to shorten its hours in the new year and efforts are in the works to provide warm meals and other services. But, those staying there aren’t happy.

The shelter opened on the heels of a November storm. But once the new year begins, the Main Avenue center is reducing its hours from 24 to 12.

Jefferson County says it’ll be open in the daytime from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

But overnight, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., people living at the homeless shelter - around 18 of them - will have to sleep at the Watertown Salvation Army’s warming center. It opened on December 16.

“I am not happy with these changes,” said Tammy Higby.

Higby was one of the first people to come to the shelter. She says she’s not alone in feeling that way.

“Everybody’s gotta pick up everything they’ve got and go to the other shelter until 8 a.m. the next morning. They’ve got to go back and forth and back and forth. It’s going from pillar to post,” she said.

Meanwhile, several churches in the area are looking to provide warm meals and meeting locations from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. as those staying at the shelter make the transition from Main Avenue to the Salvation Army.

At the Asbury United Methodist Church on Parker Street, meals are already being provided on Wednesdays, according to Jefferson County officials.

Watertown Urban Mission CEO Cher Van Brocklin tells 7 News “something is in the works” to provide more frequent meals.

In the meantime, the county says there are a variety of services, “safe havens,” in the community that are accessible throughout the day.

Those include:

  • Mental Health Association on Washington Street
  • Northern Regional Center for Independent Living on Court Street
  • The Care Center at the Watertown Urban Mission on Factory Street
  • The Anchor Recovery Center on State Street
  • PFC Dwyer Vet Peer to Peer program on State Street

The county says the Main Avenue location will be evaluated weekly to determine if it should remain open.

As for Higby, she says she’ll likely go back to sleeping in her car.