B y Darren Marcy

 

Just because you don’t see homeless people every day doesn’t mean they’re not here.

That’s the message from Washington County officials and local human service organizations who gathered for a pair of meetings to launch a project intended to tackle a growing homeless problem in the county.

They look into the needs of the homeless in Washington County and how to best improve the situation.

The first meeting July 23 saw more than a dozen attendees exclusively from the professional community, with the exception of one member of the public. The following day, a crowd five times that size met in Fort Edward.

“We’re trying to wrap our heads around what is the problem and what are some potential solutions we can pursue,” said Washington County Administrator Chris DeBolt.

 

A Growing Problem

 

The discussion started three years ago when Washington County began noticing increasing numbers of homeless individuals being served, DeBolt said.

Those numbers continued through 2016 when the county spent $779,000 on emergency housing, an increase of 33.8 percent over 2015, DeBolt said.

Of that total, $336,000 was the local share, meaning no state or federal funds covered the costs.

On top of that, only 7 percent of the $779,000 was spent in Washington County because the only emergency housing is hotels and motels, so 93 percent of the funds were spent in Saratoga and Warren counties, DeBolt said.

“The reality of Washington County is we don’t have a lot of hotel and motel rooms within the county,” DeBolt said. “We were paying a significant amount of money to Saratoga and Warren counties’ businesses to house these people.”

The county added a couple of new positions within the social services department with the intent of getting people moved out of emergency housing and into a more stable situation quicker to save money.

But it also made DeBolt realize that a long-term fix was needed.

 

This is only a preview of the story published in the Granville Sentinel. To read the full story, pick up a print copy of this week’s paper at the newsstand or read it online here.

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