HUDSON–Volunteer drivers for Meals on Wheels, housing issues and veterans’ needs got attention at the January 21 meeting of county Board of Supervisors Human Services Committee.
Meals on Wheels needs volunteer drivers to deliver the food the clients, said Michelle Ublacker, acting administrator of the Columbia County Office for the Aging. Those interested in participating should contact that office at 518 828-4258 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kary Jablonka, commissioner at the Columbia County Department of Social Services (DSS), reported that at the end of December, the DSS knew of 107 homeless individuals in Columbia County, needing 77 rooms. Both Mr. Jablonka and county supervisors observed that the $70 the county can spend a night to keep a homeless household in a hotel room amounts to $2,100 a month. For $2,100 a month, an attendee remarked, one can get “a very nice apartment.”
One committee member asked whether all the rooms the county was renting for homeless were in the state, and Mr. Jablonka said they are.
“For the last 12 years we’ve been talking about the homeless,” commented Supervisor Ed Cross, Sr. (D-Hudson 4th Ward).
“There will always be homeless people,” Mr. Jablonka said.
“Then you’ll need rooms,” responded Mr. Cross.
“We can’t create affordable housing, [so] we have to create a place for transitional housing,” said Mr. Jablonka.
“If you answer why there are homeless, you’ll have a lot less homeless,” said Mr. Cross.
Mr. Jablonka later said that transition housing must be in better than sub-standard condition. Furthermore, it should be located near services, because “there’s no public transportation in Columbia County. We pay a lot to transport clients to services.”
“Albany has a real model,” Mr. Jablonka added, praising Perry Jones of the Capital City Rescue Mission.
Meanwhile, William Fisher of the Fair Housing council described a recent accusation of housing discrimination. A pair of senior citizens, both with disabilities, lived in a second floor apartment, but it would be easier for them to live on the first floor. A first-floor apartment in their building opened up and the pair got permission to move there provided they moved completely into it within two days. They could not move their entire household on two days’ notice and lost the apartment.
Meanwhile, somebody else in the same building got unlimited time to move from a third-floor to a first-floor apartment. The pair claim they suffered discrimination because of their disabilities. However, since then, Mr. Fisher reported, they have put a deposit on a “better” place.
In addition, Mr. Fisher said, he has received complaints from residents of senior citizen housing about being “treated like children” rather than given the “respect they should be given as seniors.” Examples include snow-removal problems and inspection of their premises without prior notice. All recent such complaints come from buildings with “two particular site managers.”
In addition, a speaker reported that the state has taken away Columbia County’s veteran’s counselor and asked the board to write a letter to the state requesting reinstatement of that position. “Our veterans deserve counselors,” he said, and Columbia County’s percentage of veterans in the population is one of the highest in New York, he said. Committee Chair Matt Murrell from Stockport quickly said the committee will adopt a resolution to that effect.
Also at the meeting, Mr. Jablonka listed several agencies with which the county Department of Social Services (DSS) has contracts, along with the maximum amount it plans to pay them this year; committee members quickly approved it. But Mr. Jablonka said, “We’re in an extensive contract review” for all of these agencies, aiming to move from fixed contracts to performance-based payments.
One committee member asked if the DSS both has its own salaried lawyer and also hire outside legal services. Mr. Jablonka answered affirmatively.
The next Human Services Committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 18, at the County Office Building, 401 State Street, at 5 p.m.