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The Public Safety Committee of the Tompkins County Legislature has recommended one-time supplemental funding to the agency Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources (OAR) to expand its range of services and provide transitional reentry housing for those returning to the community following incarceration at the Tompkins County Jail.
The committee, without dissent, recommended that the Legislature approve the one-time $100,000 funding increase for OAR. The increased funding would enable the agency to acquire and rehabilitate a four-bedroom house at 626 West Buffalo Street in Ithaca to become a transitional reentry housing facility, with a projected capacity to house as many as five OAR clients.
In a briefing memo to Legislators, OAR Executive Director Deborah Dietrich reported that the agency has made a purchase offer for $95,000, and that the $100,000 supplemental appropriation from the County would also allow OAR to begin the necessary rehabilitation of the property—rehabilitation projected to cost about $60,000 and to be funded through outside grants and donations. Once rehabilitation is complete, OAR will obtain a mortgage to cover any outstanding balance not covered by other grants and donations. The agency may have capacity in the future to offset the supplemental funding through adjustments in future budgeted appropriations.
“This house is only our first effort, and as we learn from the operation of this project, we will look for other opportunities to house those most difficult to shelter,” Dietrich states in her memo to the Legislature. “This home will provide simple but safe and affordable housing for a handful of clients who are ready to engage in other reentry services available in our community—including education, job training, and ongoing mental health and substances abuse treatment.”
County Administrator Joe Mareane stressed that the County would have no ownership stake in the building, and that this action would only supplement the appropriation to OAR that was approved in the 2017 budget. The resolution before the Legislature notes that the near-absence of transitional reentry housing presents a significant barrier to constructive reentry following incarceration and that, particularly in light of increasing State pressure to reduce its Jail population, it is in the County’s interest to support the creation of such transitional housing.
In other business, the Committee also recommended that the Legislature urge New York State to fully fund impacted county departments and agencies for costs associated with raising the age of criminal responsibility to age 18. The measure supports the plan to increase the age of criminal responsibility, but calls upon the State Legislature to fully and permanently obligate the State to pay for 100% of all new costs incurred by Probation Departments and other county departments and agencies affected.