ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A viewer reached out this week with concerns regarding the homeless population living occupying the Civic Center Parking Garage in Downtown Rochester.
The complaints were relating to trash and defecation on the ground. Additionally, concern for people sleeping in areas they could get run over.
This is not a new issue for the city or Monroe County, but winter months might make it worse.
Back in May, County Executive Adam Bello announced a task-force would be formed in the following weeks to address the issues. News 8’s Eriketa Cost decided to follow up to see where things stand.
Upon visiting the parking garage itself, homeless residents were observed off to the sides, on the garage’s basement floor.
“I came here in 1961 with my parents, they were looking for a better life,” said Lorenzo Dixon, a homeless resident who chose not to show his face on camera.
Dixon described what daily life is like living in the garage.
“Seeking somewhere to eat, going to the library, charging my phone,” he said. “Bible studies on my phone, political stuff on there, entertainment, ya know.”
He says he’s not in a position to find work.
“I’m 69 years old, I’m retired.”
Any and all complaints or concerns from the public on this situation find their way to Corinda Crossdale, Deputy County Executive for Human Services with Monroe County.
She’s been on ground for years connecting the population with resources, but says it’s not always help they’re willing to accept.
“Human beings are very complex,” she said. “There’s a number of individuals who have mental health disorders, that really prevents them from feeling comfortable going into a closed-in setting. I mean they really go into almost a panic attack when put in those environments. Just getting them acclimated takes time.”
Many are also struggling with substance abuse. “They’re just not ready for treatment as much as we may want them to be ready, no one is going to go until they’re ready. Those are the biggest challenges we see with chronic homelessness.”
Crossdale says the county is required by law to provide homes for those living on the streets, and if there’s any barriers in doing so, they work to connect them with resources, mental health professionals and advocacy groups. She and other members of the department conduct regular “sweeps”, to check up on homeless residents and refer them elsewhere.
It’s been nearly six months since County Executive Adam Bello announced a new workgroup would be organized to address this. We’re expecting snow to fly in the near future, and there’s still people living at the garage.
Crossdale says they’re focusing on long-term solutions right now, and they won’t come overnight.
“I have dreams, there’s always some at the top of my mind. Building these relationships with landlords in the community, so that when we come across someone who’s ready, to come out of some of these pockets of homelessness, we want to be ready to pull the trigger as quickly as possibly to get them into permanent housing,” she said. “It’s going to be critical to have those relationships and build those, so we can move from homelessness to permanency.”
Dixon says he’s definitely worried about the winter months ahead, but he’s not against accepting help.
For now, his message for the community is this:
“I used to be judgmental kind of, but I found out that bad things happen to good people. Everybody didn’t make their situation,” said Dixon.
The county also works with local homeless shelter to instate Code Blue emergency orders. Anyone without shelter in extreme cold can go to any designated Code Blue location.