Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – NewsChannel 9 is going In Depth on The New Face of Homelessness in Onondaga County.
Shelters are full to overflowing many nights with 400 or more people throughout the county.
4,000 people in Onondaga County stay in a shelter each year, up 35 percent since 2010.Three single moms at the Salvation Army
Quantaisha East and her three kids are in the playroom at the Salvation Army's shelter in Syracuse. Bedbugs forced the family from their last apartment.
Carrie McGuinness escaped an abusive marriage and got clean from an addiction to bath salts, but disabled by depression and anxiety, she found the shelter her only option.
Dione Dickerson found herself at the Salvation Army with her children after her last temp job ended and she could no longer pay the rent.
The three single moms are the new face of homelessness.
Dickerson told NewsChannel 9, “I didn't want to come to the shelter, but I had to do what I had to do. And this was my last and only resort at the time.”
McGuinness said, “When you're this down and out, you do feel sad, and worthless, and more of your emotions come out. And it's hard, it's real hard.”
The Salvation Army has 60 adult shelter beds, 10 cribs, and six ‘pack and plays.’ On the busiest nights, the shelter has seen more than 35 kids at one time.
The women and children who fill the beds each night share some common stories, and sometimes desperate hope:
“I'm very hopeful, because I know me. And I'm a good mom. And I always do what I have to do for my children,” Dickerson said, adding, “I'm gonna make it happen. I'm gonna make it happen.”
McGuinness said, “I'm blessed to have found this housing right now. I really am. And if it wasn't for them, I could be back addicted again, to drugs again.”
East told NewsChannel 9, “When you're in need, don't be afraid to ask for help, especially if you have nowhere else to go with your kids. Don't be afraid, because that's why the shelter is here, to help people get on their feet after they've fallen down.”Overcrowding at the Rescue Mission
As long as we can remember, the Rescue Mission has been the go-to emergency shelter for men who are sober, but need a place to sleep at night, and grab a bite to eat. Now, they're bursting at the seams and looking to meet the need.
The Rescue Mission’s executive director Alan Thornton says filling all 132 beds in the emergency shelter is commonplace. But last month, he says the shelter was overcapacity one in every three nights.
“We've been very concerned because the trend has been, we're seeing an average of 10 to 11 men per night coming into emergency shelter than we did the previous year. So, we're very concerned as we look at the colder weather that should be coming soon. What is that going to mean for more people using emergency shelter as a place to stay?” Thornton said.
The master plan at the Rescue Mission calls for conversion of the rec center on campus into an expanded emergency shelter, which would free up space for an expansion into 60 badly needed affordable apartments for more permanent housing.
Dan Sieburg, the mission's director of programs, said, “When you’re looking at low-rent apartments, the city has had to close down many low-rent apartments because they're just uninhabitable.”
He wants people to know that the new face of homelessness belongs to people you might not expect to need one of these beds, ever.
“They're people just like you and I, people who are two paychecks away from being homeless themselves. So, anyone of us could get into this situation and experience homelessness and it's not that stigma of what homeless is, the alcoholic or drug addict, or someone who's lazy and doesn't want to work. That's not the homeless we've seen on a day-to-day basis,” Sieburg said.Ways to help
The following organizations can use your help: