By SUZANNE MOORE, News Editor
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Over the course of 2013, some 700 people who were homeless were served by the Evergreen Townhouse Community here.
“It is a big issue here,” Case Manager Marcy Ziemba said.
All day today, Evergreen Townhouse, which provides housing and other services for the homeless, will be taking part in the national Homeless Point in Time Count, checking in with people who don’t have homes, including those in temporary housing through the Clinton County Social Services Department.
As well, Ziemba said, they are conferring with churches, Joint Council on Economic Opportunity outreach centers, the Salvation Army, soup kitchens, the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department, State Police and other police agencies to identify others who don’t have permanent housing.
“It’s not just a head count,” she said of the one-day effort, which about nine Evergreen Townhouse Community staff and interns are conducting.
“If they are willing to talk to us, we take certain information from them.”
That includes whether they have an income, are dealing with issues such as mental illness and substance abuse and where they lived in the past.
‘MORE WORKING FAMILIES’
Data collected during the the annual Point in Time Count in Clinton County is used as a component of local homeless planning and program development, just as it is around the United States, a press release said.
The goals include understanding changes in homeless trends, adjusting the programs and services available and measuring community progress.
Through her own observations, Ziemba finds most homelessness is related to mental illness, though the cost of living and lack of affordable housing is adding more families to the ranks.
“Definitely more working families than in the past,” she said.
The Homeless Point in Time Count is also intended to raise public awareness.
In Plattsburgh and environs, it is rare to see people on the street, asking for money, Ziemba said.
So the issue of homeless isn’t an obvious one to many.
“I think the difference here is our Department of Social Services does not like to see anybody homeless, so they do everything in their power to put (people) up in temporary shelter.”
Some transients pass through who are homeless, she added, but few in the winter.
There are even some people who, lacking housing, camp in the woods, maybe take up residence in an old shack somewhere, she said.
Evergreen Townhouse Community is located on Route 9 across from Cumberland 12 Cinemas in Plattsburgh.
Anyone who is given temporary shelter through Clinton County gets an appointment with that organization.
“We meet with them, find out what their needs are,” Ziemba said. “We offer services without strings attached.”
Case management not only includes locating housing for clients but also working with them to help them successfully keep that residence.
“We keep in touch with them. We keep in touch with the landlord,” Ziemba said.
Evergreen has, along with 21 permanent supportive-housing units, four family units and eight single ones that provide temporary housing.
There is no waiting list for the permanent apartments there, she explained, because they are all accessed through homelessness.
“They are always full.”
— Contributing Writer Chris Fasolino contributed to this report.
The Evergreen Townhouse Community asks anyone who is homeless or knows someone who is to call 563-2223, Ext. 2, today so outreach can be made during the Homeless Count.