Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Stimulus money helping homeless in Rensselaer County

Posted: Dec 18, 2009 06:31 PM EST

Stimulus money helping homeless in Rensselaer County (12/18/09)


TROY, N.Y. -- It's a staggering statistic: in just the past year, there has been a 10 percent increase in homelessness across the country.

However, one and a half million dollars in federal stimulus money has helped fund a new program in Rensselaer county.

Just one month ago, Linda Hemingway and her three grandchildren were evicted from their apartment.

Having been unemployed for more than a year, Hemingway couldn't make ends meet.

After exhausting what she thought were all her options, Hemingway learned about Rensselaer County's Emergency Community House Opportunities, known as ECHO, offering her a chance to get back on her feet.

"I learned about ECHO and I got a smile on my face, because wonderful things happened," says Hemingway. "I came home and told my children everything is going to be okay, and we are going to have a wonderful Christmas in a warm environment. We're not going to be separated, and that made me feel real good."

In order to be eligible for the ECHO project, a person or family must be homeless, have received an eviction notice or court papers, a utilities shut-off warning a final notice discontinuing heat, electricity, or hot water, have no other housing options, have a current income at or below 50 percent of the median income in the area, and the potential to maintain housing and utility payments when the ECHO assistance ends.

According to the Unity House in Troy, one of the partners in this program, people from all types of economic backgrounds make use of ECHO.

"We're really seeing people who in the past have not been homeless, and had not been needing social service assistance, but as a result of job losses or other external economic conditions, are finding themselves in desperate straits," says Karla Digirolamo, Unity House CEO.

Hemingway says the program was a life saver for her, one that kept her family together.

"It's very hard, but ECHO will come in and help you. They are good people down there, they are loving people," says Hemingway.

Rensselaer County's ECHO project began in October, and so far 110 households have been served.

Also, Albany, Schenectady, and Saratoga counties have access to similar funding, to be used as another option for people facing homelessness.

Christine A Jubic
Am wondering how many jobs this will create. I am all for helping the homeless and down-trodden as I have been there myself and fear it may happen again in the future as we are in BK right now and stand a good chance of losing our own home,....but giving $$ to help the victims of the lousy economy seems to me like putting the cart before the horse, or rather, treating the effects but not the cause. Fix the problems first (J-O-B-S & REAL ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY ) and there wont be any victims need fixxin. Duh.

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