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Plans emerge for homeless, low-income housing project on Watertown’s Main Avenue

in Housing 390 views

For the second time in as many months, the city’s Planning Commission will consider a large affordable housing facility in the city, this time a 61-unit building on the city’s north side.

The city’s Planning Commission will see plans for the first time on Tuesday for a four-story housing facility for the homeless and seriously low-income people that would be built on the north side of Main Avenue.

Three local nonprofit organizations are teaming up to work on the project.

Neighbors of Watertown, along with Transitional Living Services of Northern New York and Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions, is purchasing the 3.4-acre site near Mill Street to construct the affordable housing project.

The city’s Planning Department confirmed late Thursday afternoon that the project was on Tuesday’s Planning Commission agenda.

The three nonprofit organizations are seeking site plan approval.

“We look forward to presenting this project to the Planning Commission…,” Shelby Vakiener, a civil engineer with LaBella Associates, wrote in the site plan application.

LaBella is the engineer working on the project and submitted the site plan application on behalf of Neighbors.

The engineering firm will make a presentation about the project at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the third-floor council chambers at City Hall, 245 Washington St.

The Main Avenue project comes at a time when a Rochester developer is moving ahead with a 120-unit affordable housing project on Commerce Drive.

However, the Main Avenue project would include 30 units for homeless people with substance-use disorders or mental illnesses and the remaining for low-income people.

Businessman P.J. Simao now owns the six separate vacant parcels at VL Main Ave., 144, 160, 164 and 200 Main Ave. and 160 Rear Main Ave.

The developers still need to finalize their acquisition.

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Homeless Man Hailed as Hero for Rescuing Family from Apartment Fire: ‘He was an angel’

in People 184 views

A mother in Arizona woke to find she was trapped in the second story of her apartment home as it quickly engulfed in flames.

Claudia Jimenez opened the window and called out to anyone who could hear, needing somehow to find a way to escape while the front door was blocked by the fire.

The first person on the scene wasn’t a firefighter, it was Joe Hollins, who lived in a homeless encampment with his wife near Jimenez’s house.

“All I see is a lady pull open the window and she’s screaming ‘Please help me, please help me,’” Hollins told CBS News.

The mother of two then had to make a difficult choice. It’s not unusual or prejudicial to be wary of people living on the streets, but for her one-year-old daughter Valerie and eight-year-old Natalie, Hollins may have been their only hope of survival.

Under the window, Hollins called to Jimenez saying that he would catch the children in his arms. She trusted the man, and not only dropped Valerie and Natalie, but the two dogs as well. It took Jimenez herself a while to summon the courage to jump, but she managed it, and Hollins still had the strength to catch her.

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Woman Overcomes Homelessness And Then Wins $5 Million Lottery

in Uncategorized 155 views

A California woman who recently overcame homelessness is now a millionaire after winning the $5 million prize in a lottery scratch-off game.

Lucia Forseth had no housing in 2017, but she battled back to overcome the challenges within a few years.

But this month Ms. Forseth can put any doubt behind her, becoming a multimillionaire thanks to a lucky Scratchers ticket.

“I only bought one ticket,” Forseth told the California Lottery. “I closed
my eyes and picked that one—and it won!”

Forseth went to a Walmart Supercenter in Contra Costa County to get an oil change for her car, and said she scratched the top-prize winning ticket right outside.

“I first thought I’d won a free ticket, but I checked, and it said I won $5 million!”

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ACR Health cleans up debris at vacant Butler Pavilion as homeless residents shelter on Main Avenue

in Housing 183 views

WATERTOWN — Piles of clothing, firewood, tent poles and rotting fruit were among heaps of debris cleared from the Butler Pavilion this week.

ACR Health began digging out what residents left behind when they moved into a makeshift shelter on Main Avenue ahead of the storm that arrived Nov. 18.

The lake-effect storm dumped more than 5 feet of snow in Watertown by the end of the weekend. State and federal emergencies were declared for rescue and cleanup efforts in the region.

The majority of the homeless people staying in the Joseph M. Butler Sr. Pavilion in the J.B. Wise parking lot had been sleeping in tents. About 20 people have since been sheltering in the former DealMaker Auto Group body shop. The space has heat, cots, running water and bathrooms.

Jefferson County Legislator Scott A. Gray has helped coordinate the emergency shelter with the building’s owner, local businessman P.J. Simao, and connected various agencies and volunteers to make it happen.

With the pavilion now vacant, Roberto Gonzalez and Carolina Diaz from ACR Health spent Tuesday morning with volunteers separating trash, clothes and other discarded items.

Ms. Diaz said that any clothing that was salvageable would likely go to the Main Avenue shelter. City public works crews planned to clear out the remaining items.

Nonprofit ACR Health, with newly opened offices in the Barton & Loguidice building on Court Street, provides health education programs, insurance assistance, youth and family services and a syringe exchange program, among others.

“We get the information on where any live sharps might be or any hazardous materials, and then we regroup as a team and make sure that we have our safety components that we need to do safe pickups,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “Gloves, grabbers, pickup, any other safety materials like goggles, boots, long sleeves. We have a process on how we look for sharps and typically contain them.”

Mr. Gonzalez said that he has not done a cleanup the scale of the pavilion in Watertown before. They typically do larger cleanups in the spring and summer and sometimes the fall, but once winter arrives in the north country, everything is buried beneath snow.

“It’s kind of a unique situation because you still see stuff on the pavilion and inside the pavilion, which is a huge benefit to us,” Mr. Gonzalez said, because it allows them to pick up everything now, rather than waiting for the snow to melt.

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Temporary homeless shelter may not be so temporary; over 20 people staying at former Dealmaker auto garage

in Housing/Local News 212 views

WATERTOWN — Jefferson County’s first emergency shelter has proven popular, growing to host over 20 displaced and homeless people within the first five days of its opening.

The impromptu shelter on Main Avenue, in the building that once housed Dealmaker Auto Group’s body shop, has heat, cots, running water and functioning bathrooms, more than what its current residents would have access to otherwise. Officials and those involved in running the informal shelter said it is far from perfect, but there’s really no other option at this moment.

“We are at what I would call near crisis levels,” said Scott A. Gray, Jefferson County legislator and Assemblyman-elect. “There are no near-term alternatives; this is the only option we have.”

Mr. Gray has taken point in coordinating the emergency shelter, connecting with various agencies and individuals to make it come together last week and continuing to step in to help administer the shelter when possible.

The shelter opened Friday, as a historic snowstorm pummeled the city of Watertown. A group of about 15 displaced and homeless people were sheltering at the Butler Pavilion in the J.B. Wise parking lot, just off of the Black River Parkway in downtown Watertown. A group of local residents had donated food, heating fuel and tarps to protect the people there from the worst of the storm, but conditions were still unlivable.

Local businessowner P.J. Simao, who owns a number of buildings around the city, said he saw how bad conditions were getting Thursday night into Friday, and got in touch with Mr. Gray to offer his building on Main Avenue, just across the river from the pavilion.

“It’s not the Taj Mahal by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s got four walls, a roof, it has lights and plumbing,” Mr. Simao said.

But the facility’s current residents, who came to the building from a variety of places, said they’re grateful for what the community has given them, and are happy to be off the streets. They’ve come from all walks of life, some only recently without permanent housing and others who’ve spent years in and out of housing insecurity. Many have substance abuse disorder, addictions, mental or physical illnesses, but others said they found themselves slipping out of housing security purely because of economic concerns, high rents and low wages.

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Watertown facility for homeless people will open on Pine Street

in Local News 413 views

WATERTOWN — Transitional Living Services is turning the former Angel’s Inn adult home on Pine Street into a facility for homeless people.

Transitional Living Services of New York, a Watertown-based provider of housing and mental health services since 1979, will provide emergency housing for the homeless in the former adult home at 518 Pine St.

Transitional Living is partnering with the Jefferson County Department of Social Services and a private developer, JC Capital Funding LLC, Colorado Springs, Colo., to work on the 18-unit, single-room-occupancy facility.

The City Council learned about the project after receiving a letter last week from Transitional Living Executive Director Maureen P. Cean, who requested that the city provide $15,000 from the city’s Community Development Block Grant program.

In a 3-2 vote on Monday night, the council informally agreed to provide the $15,000 gap funding for the project through the CDBG program.

But Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith was joined by Councilwoman Sarah V. Compo Pierce in opposing providing the funding, saying that they wanted to wait to see what the community thought about it first.

“This is the first I’m hearing about it,” Mayor Smith said, adding that he wanted to know whether Ms. Cean has approached neighbors to see what they think about the facility.

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