MADISON COUNTY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — A new grant from the Central New York Community Foundation will help vital programs run by Community Action Partnership for Madison County to continue to fight homelessness.
Identifying homelessness in rural communities within Madison County is different than areas with city centers like Syracuse and Utica. It’s for this reason that advocacy groups call Madison County’s homeless problem “hidden.” People may not immediately see it, but it’s there.
Last year, CAP helped 250 people stay off the streets.
Everyone who stays in the transitional housing unit in Canastota either has children or is an expecting mother.
Among those who have lived in CAP’s transitional housing is 25-year-old mother of three, Kaela Amador. While recovering from addiction, Amador was aiming for a fresh start.
“I lost everything,” Amador said. “I had to start over. It was like the third or fourth time and I was just staying with friends here and there, where ever I could get a place to live. Once he was born, it was starting to get a little harder. I had a whole other human to support.”
It was help from CAP’s Transitional Housing and Solutions to End Homelessness (STEHP) programs that helped Amador make a positive change in her life.
CAP Executive Director Antara Mitra says families become homeless for several reasons. Some parents have fallen victim to domestic violence, lost their homes in a fire or natural disaster, battled substance abuse, have mental health issues and some are simply struggling to make ends meet while working minimum wage jobs.
“We have been seeing more and more people coming to us for help,” Mitra said. “We helped around 250 people last year through all the different housing programs. So for a county our size, that’s a sizable number.”
CAP’s programs are mainly funded by state and federal grants, but some services are not covered by that money. The CNYCF grant of $20,000 will allow CAP to help families replace personal documents lost during a fire or other crisis that caused them to become homeless.
“It’s a real issue right now that a lot of Americans are facing — living paycheck to paycheck, that at any moment things can change on a dime,” said Robyn Smith, CNYCF strategic initiatives director. “And for us, at the Community Foundation, to be able to support programs such as this where we know families and mothers will have an opportunity to go and find permanent housing and solutions to help them get out of homelessness is incredibly important.”
The money will also help pay for additional living essentials, such as diapers and food.
“Families come in a state of crisis. They don’t know where they’re going to be sleeping the next day. They don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” Mitra said. “So, once they arrived and they settle in. That’s our first focus. To make sure they have their basic needs taken care of. [Once a housing solution is established] we see the children grow less anxious. The parents, the family unit starts functioning better.”
The transitional housing is located in Canastota. So far, it’s helped 29 families since it was built and opened in 2016.
The four fully furnished apartments provide a safe and stable environment for families with children to stay in for up to two years while they get back on their feet.
“It was a beautiful place to live,” said Kaela Amador as she visited CAP this week. “I’m just thankful. That was the start of my own independence again. Getting it back. That’s the beginning of it. So, it’s nice to see and be able to look back on it and know that I made it this far.”
CAP Executive Director Antara Mitra says they are also working with other agencies to find a long-term solution to ending homelessness in Madison County.
“We’re a strength-based agency, which means we don’t judge people and when people come to us, we find their strengths and work with them where they are at,” Mitra said. “We meet them where they are.”
To learn more about CAP for Madison County’s programs, click here.
For more information on CNY Community Foundation’s giving, click here.