WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Homelessness is not an invisible issue in Jefferson County. In fact, it has become a crisis.
Based on current statistics, there are likely hundreds of Jefferson County residents facing homelessness in 2022.
The North Country Family Health Center and Points North Housing Coalition are just two of the many organizations stepping in to help lower these rates.
“It is affecting the community and not just the homeless population,” Points North Housing Coalition Chair Mark Waterhouse said.
“It could be anybody, so it’s really important that we come together as a community to address this, as one,” NCFHC Population Health Program Manager Felicia Parker added.
According to both Waterhouse and Parker, homelessness is not a new issue, but recent happenings, such as the Rainbow Motel fire and the closure of local shelters, have exacerbated the crisis.
“Going forward, a lot of landlords are pursuing evictions after the eviction moratorium has ended,” Waterhouse explained. “You have a shortage of safe, affordable housing for individuals, and you have a shortage of emergency or transitional housing in the Watertown area.
Another point of concern: Winter.
Organizations such as North Country Family Health and Points North are racing the clock to find alternate housing options for those who find themselves homeless before snowflakes hit the ground.
Parker explained that New York State has a “Code Blue” Program, which mandates counties to find housing for homeless individuals when temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. But, Parker feared that the county has limited options.
“As we sort of look towards the future, the concern is where do house individuals,” she stated.
Waterhouse shared a similar sentiment, warning that the crisis may intensify.
“As the weather gets colder, I think you’re going to see a very big spike,” Waterhouse stated. “We want that number to not get as big as it potentially could be.
Many solutions are currently on the table in Jefferson County, including the construction of new shelters, funding opportunities for programs and community programs.