ROCHESTER, N.Y. — In the next few weeks, there will be more options for the homeless in Rochester.
Renovations of a building in the city are coming along quickly. When the updates are complete outside and inside, up to 30 people experiencing homelessness will be able to move in.
“We call it a low-barrier shelter,” said Andy Carey of REACH Advocacy. “So that means that we work primarily with people with addiction, mental health issues, pretty significant issues.”
Carey is spending time with some of the people who will assist with the Monroe County contracted project called Project HAVEN. It's an effort that will put a roof over the heads of some 80 people.
"Basically, we're hoping these beds will really help the community,” Carey said. “We're obviously facing a pretty significant homeless crisis right now. After the eviction moratorium ended, it's just a lot of evictions, a lot more people on the street.”
Six shelters are part of the project. One shelter will open to those trying to stay clean and sober, another to the LGBTQ+ homeless population, and there will be a shelter for victims of sex trafficking, two locations will be smaller shelters for those who may be ready to move to permanent housing, and the low barrier facility that will house up to 30 people.
“There will be people who are actively using – not in the building, but outside the building and then they’re welcome to come back and sleep and work with our social workers and get treatment if they'd like,” Carey said. “That's a model that we really are pushing.”
This news the same week the city of Rochester is breaking up homeless encampments, including one on Loomis Street.
"So when I look at Loomis and the breaking up of that encampment, first of all, I'm saddened that it's really a public health crisis,” Carey said. “It's an opioid epidemic. This is not an issue of homelessness. This is not that. I think we keep looking at it as like a homeless issue when really it's a community health issue.”
He and the other organizations and outreach volunteers are constantly seeking more solutions.
"So it seems to be the trend, is to kind of break up encampments and just move the problem,” Carey said. “And so that doesn't help any neighborhood. I feel great empathy for the neighbors that have encampments near their houses. That's terrible, but it's just going to move to another neighbor's yard and another neighbor's yard until we actually address the problems instead of just pushing problems around and trying to hide them, that doesn't really do anything.”
Carey has spent decades working to help the homeless and disenfranchised,
"I've been doing this for a while, I’m a little older,” he said. “This is the worst I've ever seen it.”