By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special To AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Plans for The Caring for the Homeless Collaborative’s proposed warming station can get underway once a location is determined, the group discussed today during their meeting.
“We’ve come up with a couple of locations, but for one reason or another, it fell apart,” said Lynn Glueckert, executive director, Catholic Charities.
Among the proposed sites were the Salvation Army and the River St. Baptist Church, but the spaces were discovered to be too small or unfitting.
“Wherever it is, we need to make sure that people feel safe,” said Jennifer Shuman, Medical Affairs Staff Coordinator at Fox and co-founder of the committee.
Once a location is determined, the group would also have to decide which organization will oversee the operation.
“I don’t think we are the only people in this room that are fit to run this,” said Patricia Leonard, Executive Director, Family Service Association. “I think we should see who else is interested,”
However, some were less inclined to take on the project. “We don’t have a large enough administrative staff,” said Glueckert. “Administration of any kind of program isn’t easy. Administration of this kind of program would be especially challenging.”
Additionally, the group wants to better define homelessness as a means of addressing the needs of the community
“There is not a lot of understanding of what homelessness or being at risk for homelessness is,” said Leonard. “There isn’t always a lot of sensitivity to this subject.”
Part of that task comes in the form of not only recognizing homeless individuals, but families as well.
“People forget about the kids and the families,” she said.
Unatego superintendent David Richards and Principal Julie Lambiaso were also in attendance and presented the collaborative with information regarding student homelessness.
“We’ve had three families in the last year that were forced out of their homes and were living in campers until it got too cold,” said Richards.
Under the McKinney-Vento Act, which was enacted in 1987, Federal aid is provided to schools for children experiencing homelessness and they are allowed to stay at the school of their choosing, regardless of current residence.
“When you’ve lost everything, it’s important to keep things consistent for the child,” said Lambiaso. “It gives power back to the family. To be able to choose which school they want their kids to attend.”
Unatego Central School also offers free breakfast and lunch to students who qualify for the McKinney-Vento Act, as well as waivers for AP Exams, SATs, and college applications
“It could be up to 10 years if you’re still not in fixed housing, there is no time limit,” said Lambiaso.
And although they are supportive of the project, Richards emphasizes that families are often reluctant to seek help.
“Many of these families don’t want to go through county services,” he said.
But the collaborative remains hopeful that they can help make a difference, one initiative at a time.
“We started working together about a year ago and we are addressing a need in our community,” said Leonard.