Group looks to help homeless


By Patsy Nicosia

Everyone who's homeless has a different story.
That's what makes addressing the problem difficult-even in the Village of Cobleskill, where "the homeless" is more likely to be an evicted family sleeping on a friend's couch than someone sleeping under bridges or in a skateboard park.
Though that last one has happened too.
Prompted by the story of a couple of families who were recently evicted because their apartments weren't safe to live in, Mayor Linda Holmes and about a half-dozen others met Thursday to brainstorm ways to help others like them.
And quickly realized there are no easy answers.
Agencies like Schoharie County Community Action Program, Catholic Charities, and the Department of Social Services all offer some services, but sometimes even they don't know what the other has available and in an emergency, it can be difficult for people to figure out where to go or what they qualify for.
Denelle Baker, who works for SCCAP, said the first stop for anyone who's homeless should be DSS-which is available 24/7 and through the Sheriff's Office after hours.
SCCAP, she said, works to keep people from becoming homeless in the first place, she said, adding "Our goal is permanent housing."
That's the case for the faith-based Joshua Project as well.
Patrick Costello said the local Joshua Project operates out of Middleburgh and in addition to providing things like summer meals, free furniture, and Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets to those who need them, the group is planning to build three small homes in Middleburgh for the elderly, who'll be charged minimal rent.
Mr. Costello said the Joshua Project had had an existing home in mind for a similar project, but damage from Hurricane Irene ended up making it too expensive to renovate.
That's an idea that Mayor Holmes likes, however, and she plans to take it to the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors.
Mayor Holmes said she'd like the county to donate a home or two from the unpaid tax rolls that perhaps a group like the Joshua Project could renovate for either short-term stays or to be eventually be turned over to a family.
Mr. Costello said the Joshua Project doesn't take any money from the government, which lets it set its own rules and requirements for eligibility.
Those requirements can strangle a good idea, others pointed out, and the target for grants is always changing.
The Spirit of Hope, which operated the Butterfly Café in the Head Start building for several years, worked five years to put a plan together and was even looking at sites for a homeless shelter, said Rev. Sara Litzner of Zion Lutheran Church, when the funding focus shifted and the money they were counting on disappeared.
Mayor Holmes planned to meet again today, Wednesday, with representatives from local agencies who work with homelessness and hopes to take her request for donated tax roll homes to supervisors later this month.