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

in Housing 21 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 72 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 269 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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Condemned apartment building leaves dozens homeless in Watertown

in People 402 views

Daniel Hall had just fallen asleep in his apartment on Factory Street in Watertown on Sunday evening, when he heard a growing commotion.

“I said, ‘What’s going on, officers?'” Hall said. “He said, ‘This place is being condemned, so I’ll allow you to get a couple things just for the night, and tomorrow, hopefully, we’ll be up and running.’ I said, ‘no problem.‘“

However, there was a problem, a very big problem.

After a fire alarm went off earlier, it was determined the building had a faulty fire system, a violation of code. Hall says he has since learned that code officers later found plumbing and electrical issues, as well as concerns about living conditions.

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In Manhattan, Daily Sweeps Target Homeless New Yorkers

in People 342 views

A key piece of New York City’s economic recovery from the pandemic, many experts and city leaders contend, will be the return of office workers and tourists to Manhattan. As officials seek to secure that recovery, they have increasingly sought to clear the population of homeless people off the borough’s streets.

On some days, city workers clear dozens of encampments. Advocates said that the sweeps are doing harm by upending homeless residents’ lives through aggressive tactics that discourage people from seeking or accepting the city’s help.

“They are trying to make life so miserable on the streets that people will come into shelters, but that is a cruel and ineffective approach,” said Josh Dean, the founder of Human.nyc, a policy group focused on street homelessness.

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