Dutchess is Taking the Steps to Address Homelessness in Area

POUGHKEEPSIE – Following input from local stakeholders, Dutchess County is undertaking several vital steps to continue its innovative journey to address the local impact of the national plight of homelessness with an evidence-based approach and the establishment of a permanent emergency housing facility. The County’s approach includes comprehensive wrap-around services to help people move from homelessness to independence as quickly as possible.

Critical next steps include:
• Recruitment is underway for a new county Shelter Director position to oversee emergency shelter operations and accompanying wrap-around services, including contracted service oversight.

• A Request for Expressions of Interest from qualified organizations to manage the day-to-day operations of the Emergency Housing Facility will be issued in the coming weeks.

• Construction design is about to begin for the temporary location for the emergency shelter operations at Dutchess County Jail once it is vacated. The current PODS have reached end of useful life and need to be removed for completion of the Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center project (DCJTC)

• The County is applying for $15 million in New York State Homeless Housing and Assistance (HHAP) grant funding to establish permanent location for the emergency shelter.
Additionally, County Executive William F.X. O’Neil has initiated conversations with the Governor’s Office about opportunities to collaborate with the State to create housing opportunities at the former Hudson River Psychiatric Center property to provide more opportunities in the housing spectrum and ensure the success of the County’s homeless prevention efforts.

County Executive O’Neil said, “Dutchess County continues our plan to develop the Hudson Valley’s most transformative solution to homelessness. Taking these next actions builds more momentum as we seek our ultimate resolution to address the plight of homelessness and save lives. We have heard from the Legislature’s selected representatives on this issue, and we’ve used their contributions to craft plans that will ensure success. We look forward to moving this process forward to offer those experiencing homelessness a hand up and support to find safe and stable housing.”

Shelter Director recruitment
The Dutchess County Department of Community & Family Services is currently recruiting for the Shelter Director position with a public posting of the job specifications and qualifications. The Shelter Director is a County government position with responsibilities involving the administration, supervision and coordination of the County’s emergency housing shelter. Among other duties, the Director will be responsible for ensuring the provision of a range of services to ensure safe housing and get people to independence and housing stability. The Director will also be a liaison between the shelter and the community.

The job description and qualifications were expanded and updated to incorporate feedback from the Legislature’s Community Stakeholder Committee. Based on the Committee’s recommendation, the qualifications for education/experience were enhanced to add an additional year of required paid case management and supervision experience. Those with a master’s degree in public administration should have two years of experience, while applicants with bachelor’s degree should have at least three years of experience.

Additionally, based on the committee’s feedback, the posting includes the preference for the director to be a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Qualified applicants are encouraged to apply prior to the August 18th deadline.

RFEI for Shelter Operator
Dutchess County will be soon issuing a Request for Expression of Interest (RFEI) seeking a highly regarded organization, experienced in shelter operations, that understands and appreciates the County’s needs regarding the Emergency Housing Facility and the desire to implement a new, innovative model with qualified and established program management staff.

The Operator will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the emergency housing facility including, among others:

• development of facility operational and security plans, and policies and procedures, in accordance with Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) regulations, and in partnership with and approval by the County’s Department of Community and Family Services;

• responsibility for intakes and discharges;

• 24-hour on-site security, including screening with a metal detector and x-ray machine;

• offering a variety of activities that are available at the facility to help engage with guests and provide meaningful activities throughout the day;

• preliminary health screenings of guests; and

• provision of three meals per day, prepared in a facility approved by the County’s health department.

The RFEI is expected to be publicly posted in the coming weeks, and all eligible community providers are invited to express their interest. The RFEI incorporated comments and feedback from a public meeting convened by the administration in December 2022 to discuss the emergency shelter project with community members and local stakeholders.

The RFEI also includes feedback from the Community Stakeholder Committee formed by the Dutchess County Legislature. The Committee’s recommendations were sent to the County Executive, in keeping with the resolution regarding the shelter project passed by the Legislature in 2022.

Planning for temporary location for Emergency Shelter
Temporary housing units (PODS) were installed at the current jail site in May 2015 as a provisional solution to the costly practice of housing out inmates to other counties, due to overcrowding at the jail. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the PODS, which were no longer being utilized for inmate housing due to bail reform, were converted temporary emergency housing facility to provide safe haven for the homeless. The PODS have continued to be utilized as the number of homeless individuals has grown significantly since prior to the pandemic. However, the PODS have reached the end of their useful life, and ongoing wear and tear have required increasing maintenance and repairs. Additionally, the PODS must be removed for the completion of the Dutchess County Justice and Transition Center (DCJTC), necessitating an interim facility for the shelter.

With the 1995 section of current jail set to be decommissioned when the DCJTC opens later this year, that section of the jail facility will serve as temporary location for the Emergency Housing Facility. County Legislators had the opportunity to tour the 1995 section earlier this year and concurred that the facility is a significant improvement over the current PODS and authorized construction design funding. Design is set begin late this summer.

Until a permanent shelter location is solidified and ready to welcome guests, the former jail facility will enable the County to safely house individuals and most importantly, begin the critical programming that is not possible to conduct in the current PODS location.

The first floor of the jail facility will serve as office and programming space to begin providing critical wrap-around services, including mental health, substance use, housing case management and vocational assistance. This can begin as soon the jail facility is vacated this fall. The second floor will be the living area, including sleeping quarters, and will be the focus of the majority of the construction work.

Once a permanent shelter location is identified and opened, the 1995 section of the jail will be repurposed for other uses including housing needs.

HHAP grant application for permanent location
In 2022, the County identified the 26 Oakley Street property in the City of Poughkeepsie to convert into a permanent emergency housing facility and transform the County’s emergency housing response system by connecting those needing housing and services with providers where they reside. Having new evidence-based programs and intensive services located at one facility will facilitate the County’s new model for assisting those experiencing homelessness find permanent housing. The County utilized $2.1 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to purchase property.

Following construction estimates on schematic design, the multi-million cost of retrofitting the current Oakley Street building for that use, however, was beyond what the County could reasonably direct towards the project.

To bring the vision at Oakley Street to fruition, the County is pursuing a grant through the State’s Homeless Housing and Assistance Program (HHAP) for up to $15 million, which provides capital grants and loans to municipalities and public corporations, not-for-profit corporations, charitable and religious organizations to acquire, construct or rehabilitate housing for persons who are homeless and are unable to secure adequate housing without special assistance.

The State’s HHAP application and review process will take place in the coming months, and Dutchess County expects to receive a decision on its application by the end of 2023. If approved, the County will use the grant to fund the capital costs associated with the Oakley Street project, with an anticipated opening date of the permanent shelter at the site in Spring of 2026.

County Executive O’Neil said, “It has long been our vision to use the Oakley Street building as the cornerstone of Dutchess County’s transformational approach to dealing with homelessness and its root causes. We’ve been steadfast in our vision and creative in resolving the unforeseen challenges we’ve overcome. This newest grant opportunity not only keeps that goal in sight, but it will help us achieve our mission of making our plan a reality. Dutchess County is eager to continue our progress to address the scourge of homelessness and help lift residents out of it, into a better life.”

Dutchess County will continue to review other potential permanent locations, should its grant application not be approved. The County will also research and analyze a distributed shelter concept as suggested by the Community Stakeholder Committee and others for its validity, acceptability and affordability.

Keenly aware of the national housing shortage, as defined locally in the Dutchess County Housing Needs Assessment released 2022, the County, with the support of Assemblymember Didi Barrett, is exploring opportunities to transform the former site of the Hudson Valley Psychiatric Center into a transitional/affordable housing campus in alignment with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s announced executive action to review state-owned sites to create and increase the supply of affordable housing and promote broader housing growth. The County Executive has forwarded a letter to the Governor, explaining how the former Hudson Valley Psychiatric Center offers the location, space and opportunity to build such a campus and calls on the State’s support of such a transformative project.

“Housing is one of the most critical needs facing our community and our nation. Dutchess County is working to tackle these challenges across the spectrum, from emergency shelter to transitional and permanent housing. It is an ongoing process and we are demonstrating bold leadership in addressing this difficult problem,” said O’Neil.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email