Albany County is considering an unexpected place to help the homeless: the county jail. Sheriff Craig Apple announced the new program, and a new name for the jail, Monday.
The Albany County Jail is now known as the Albany County Corrections and Rehabilitative Services Center, effective immediately, as they’re launching another new initiative: the SHIP, or Sheriff’s Homeless Improvement Project, program.
Apple said the program aims to house homeless and transient populations in Albany County in a converted jail building. He noted that, right now, the jail is only about 40 percent full, and with extra space, he wanted to do to something to help end homelessness in the Capital Region.
Apple says nearly everything to convert old jail cells into private rooms has been donated, and the project has only cost about $10,000.
Apple says there will be some rules for the space, and staff will be there to facilitate, but no corrections officers will work in the space so that people don’t feel like they’re in jail — because they’re not.
The sheriff noted it’s important to help people in need, and HATAS Executive Director Liz Hitt says this could be huge.
The rooms have beds, private toilets, TVs, and a small desk space. Each day, Apple wants to bring in programming for people who live here, including small job fairs, folks who will come in and teach about finance, help them get identification, find permanent housing, whatever they need.
Officials have three buildings they hope to convert into about 300 rooms. They’re hoping to start taking people in in a few weeks.
Apple estimates this will save the county about $1.1 million each year, which is what it costs to house 25 homeless people in a motel for 365 days.