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Study is critical of homeless help

YATES COUNTY—Housing for the homeless was the main concern for Yates County, as discussed for a recent and ongoing New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) study.
The DHCR released their housing needs studies for all areas of the state they have been gathering. This was the first time they have done such a study and included local officials, advocates, housing developers and social service providers. The study revealed that in Yates County, the housing problem is the lack of housing help for the homeless.
Kathy Disbrow, executive director for the Keuka Housing Council and a participant in the DCHR’s study, said the number of people seeking foreclosure prevention assistance has increased. She also noted there has been little new rental construction.
“There are no shelters, no traditional housing where people could go and stay for up to 60 to 90 days until they find an apartment,” said Disbrow.
According to the Keuka Housing Council, one factor leading to homelessness is seasonal work. One of their studies found that because seasonal pay is at or slightly above minimum wage, it does not always provide sufficient funds for rent and living essentials for individuals or families. Participants of this study decided that they needed more apartments with rental assistance or additional Section 8 rental assistance vouchers. Disbrow added the lack of temporary lodging hurt those trying to escape domestic violence as well.
“(Being homeless) is not an environment conducive to getting past that environment,” said Jennifer Carlson, with Lakeview Mental Health Services and another participant. She explained when people with mental illnesses are forced into being homeless, they do not have the resources for bettering themselves.
To fix this problem, she said the Lakeview Mental Health is working on a housing project in Penn Yan. Carlson said it would not only provide affordable housing but would also help the local economy by creating jobs during construction. According to a needs assessment report from the KHC, Lakeview Mental Health is negotiating to purchase a house on Main Street in Penn Yan for not only apartments, but with some commercial space as well. Carlson said they are working with municipalities, something the DHCR report said can be difficult if community members and local governments take a “not in my backyard” stance.
The report also states Lakeview Mental Health currently offers 14 beds in Yates County for those needing housing and experiencing mental health issues. However, the new project would not fulfill the needs for Yates County in this regard. The DHCR study also reported participants were worried about the “invisible homeless” who are not counted because they stay with family or friends.
The DHCR study also said the age of housing in the area was a problem. The KHC report stated 62 percent of the houses in Yates County were built prior to 1960. DHCR participants said housing is usually energy inefficient.
The regional reports for the state are available on the DHCR’s Web site,, under “Publications.”


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