Glens Falls homeless shelter public support not guaranteed

Glens Falls, winter, 2011. Photo: alandaviddoane, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Glens Falls, winter, 2011. Photo: alandaviddoane, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Homelessness takes a lot of forms. Here in the North Country, we don’t tend to see a lot of the kind of homelessness that’s associated with big urban centers — people living in the street, out of shopping carts, what used to be called “bag ladies.” We see (or don’t see, really) people living in too-close quarters with family members, being shunted from place to place, or living in overcrowded or substandard housing.

In Glens Falls, the problem has apparently become much more visible in recent years; an article in today’s Glens Falls Post-Star says that after years of non-interest in constructing a permanent homeless shelter in the city, the city is showing a willingness to at least address the problem temporarily.

Here’s what’s been happening: Glens Falls has long had a homeless problem, says Lynn Ackershoek, director of Warren-Hamilton Counties Community Action. People come to the area looking for work (particularly in the summer), find none, and find themselves living outdoors. “With the economy,” she says, “it has become more visible…And it’s not just during the winter. During the summers, we used to have tent cities. We actually stocked tents here at one point.”

People are able to live outside in the summer, but in the winter things get desperate. In the past, city organizations that serve the homeless didn’t have a lot of luck getting local officials or community members to recognize the need — or at least being willing to deal with it. That changed this year, apparently, and when the Open Door soup kitchen announced it would open a shelter on nights the temperature dropped to 10 or below (or a foot or more of snow was forecast), it got the support it needed. The shelter has been averaging about seven people a night, and will be open until at least Jan. 30.

Representatives from the city’s various agencies serving the homeless have been meeting weekly to talk about the problem and work on finding solutions; but meanwhile, support from the city for a permanent shelter isn’t guaranteed: Hollie Rapp, Director of Assistance Programs for the Washington County Department of Social Services, says although the need is there, she’s not sure the public is aware of it: “I do not think people in the community really have any idea about the problem,” Rapp told the paper. “The public does not understand there is a homeless problem in this area.” And many don’t want a shelter near their homes.

There’s much more detail on what’s a really interesting story about how cities begin tackling their social problems, in the article. Local social service agencies will be counting the city’s homeless this week; the results will be available in a few weeks. Last year’s results show 15 people unsheltered in Warren and Washington counties, and 55 people in emergency housing.


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10 Comments on “Glens Falls homeless shelter public support not guaranteed”

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  1. One factor is that there was a tenement called the Madden Hotel that housed low income folks. However, the mayor bullied the owner into selling it to the city so he could give it to the local bank to construct an addition. The folks who once stayed there are now on the streets.

    The need for a homeless shelter is undeniable. “Code Blue” is enacted if there’s a foot of snow or the temperature goes below 10. Is it really any safer to sleep on the streets if it’s 15 degrees outside or only 10 inches of snow?

    I know being triumphalist and judgmental toward people who are down on their luck is the American way. But it’s still despicable… especially from a so-called “Christian nation.”

  2. Knuckleheadedliberal says:

    The Madden Hotel also housed the Open Door soup kitchen before it was torn down. it is good that the various agencies dealing with the homeless have been meeting weekly to solve the problem … now. I’ m not sure what the mayor, et al thought would happen to the “undesirable” people when the Madden was torn down. Did he think they would move to Florida? I don’t remember the amount of money involved but the bank got a pretty sweet deal on the property; why didn’t the mayor insist that the bank set aside space in their new building for a homeless shelter?

  3. The Original Larry says:

    Who do they think they are in Glens Falls to want to replace an eyesore SRO hotel in the middle of downtown with offices for a business that contributes to the local economy, provides local jobs and will upgrade the property in question? Why must people always impute bad intentions to anything business does? Maybe you think downtown GF would be better off with the Madden Hotel anchoring in it instead of GF Nat Bank. The self-righteous among us should understand that everyone isn’t triumphalist, judgemental or even christian. The homeless are being looked after.

  4. OL: If the mayor had developed a plan or otherwise explained what the people forced to live at the Madden (and no one would live there if they had any other viable choices), I would’ve had no problem with them replacing it with a bank addition. GFN is the bank I use. It’s a good local institution with excellent customer service.

    I know you want to paint this as leftist anti-banking sentiment because it fits your narrative. My criticism is squarely directed at the mayor. He was the one who changed city code and then exploited it to intimidate the Madden’s owner to selling to the bank. He was the one who never adequately explained where poor folks were going to go now that the Madden was being torn down.

    Homeless folks are only being looked after if it’s frigid or if there’s a ton of snow. If it’s just very cold and there’s only a lot of snow, they’re out of luck.

    Knuckle: the problem with a permanent homeless shelter is the NIMBY syndrome. There was enough of an uproar when just a soup kitchen had to move into a neighborhood (because its home was in the Madden). But a youth homeless shelter was approved several years ago so maybe there’s hope.

    One day, I was leaving for work and I found a homeless guy sleeping at the foyer of my house. And a friend of mine couch surfs. So I guess I know better than to believe homelessness not a problem.

  5. The Original Larry says:

    “I know being triumphalist and judgmental toward people who are down on their luck is the American way. But it’s still despicable… especially from a so-called “Christian nation.” ”

    That comment doesn’t fit some sort of narrative?

  6. Knuckleheadedliberal says:

    OL, like Brian, I also am a customer of GFNB. I have a personal checking account, 3 (count them 1, 2, 3) business checking accounts, and my Visa card with GFNB. They are a good bank and they are local. Not only do I have nothing against them but I like them and I am friends with several people who work for them including one of their Vice Presidents. I even like the annex building they built – designed by a local architectural firm. All good!

    What I don’t like is that the city essentially gave the bank lots of money to take ownership of the property. Let me repeat that so it sinks in – the city gave the bank ( which is in the money business ) money to take ownership of an adjoining parcel of property.

    Meanwhile people who had no means, zero money, zilch assets, were thrown out onto the street without any apparent concern for their welfare. Yes, many of those people have drug and alcohol problems, probably don’t have jobs, may have psychological issues, whatever…but they ARE people and people shouldn’t be allowed to starve or freeze to death, no matter their own personal issues. Especially when you are giving money to a bank in order to dispossess them.

  7. The reactions I saw to the soup kitchen, on the newspaper website, fit that narrative. I figured the soup kitchen, run as a Christian ministry, might have a certain degree of immunity from this but I was wrong.

    Regardless, I repeat my fundamental point: my criticism is not of the bank but of the mayor’s approach. The mayor’s a Democrat, in case that gives my criticism more weight in your eyes.

  8. Knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Another story in the PS today, one that gives voice to some of the homeless people involved.

  9. OL may support big-government Democrats intimidating private property owners so as to engage in social engineering and socialist redistribution, but I’m a little more wary of such things.

  10. Mervel says:

    There is not one emergency homeless shelter north of Syracuse. What happens in this situation is that we don’t have a decent safety net for the homeless, yet no one wants to be the first to jump into that realm of service.

    For example in St. Lawrence County we DO have a homeless problem. The homeless today are not always the homeless caricature of the single male addict or mentally ill individual; they are families living in their cars, staying at campgrounds or camping in the woods or staying in extremely substandard housing (no working in door plumbing or electricity for example).

    We need to look at a regional approach to the issue.

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