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Health and Human Services Committee Begins to Hear Housing-Related Presentations

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Health and Human Services Committee Begins to Hear Housing-Related Presentations

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee today listened to the first in a monthly series of presentations dealing with the important issue of housing in this community.

The committee heard from Tierra Labrada of the Human Services Coalition of Tompkins County, lead agency coordinating the Ithaca/Tompkins Continuum of Care (CoC) program. The CoC, initiated by the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, serves as a conduit through which approximately 25 local human services agencies collaborate to provide services for people experiencing homelessness. Labrada stressed that the chronically homeless are the main priority, with all CoC-funded supportive housing beds dedicated to the chronically homeless population.

As part of her detailed briefing to the Committee, Labrada noted that over the past five years, CoC funding overall has declined by about 20%--from $220,000 to approximately $187,000, which currently funds 66 supportive beds. The less funding that is received, the fewer beds can be supported, she noted.

Following the presentation, the Committee recommended appropriation of $50,000 from the County’s Contingent Fund to support the Continuum of Care’s Transitional Housing Plan. The Plan would allocate $27,000 to Catholic Charities, in partnership with Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, for a rental subsidy program; $5,000 to the Advocacy Center to establish an Emergency Housing Fund for victims of domestic violence; and $18,000 to Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources (OAR) to support renovations of its “Endeavor House” transitional housing project for those returning to the community from the Tompkins County Jail. As part of the 2017 County Budget process, the Legislature set aside $50,000 in Contingent Funding per year for three years to support development and implementation of the transitional housing plan.

Also related to housing, the Committee heard an introductory presentation from County Director of Human Rights Karen Baer regarding Source of Income protection in Tompkins County, an initiative that would extend housing discrimination protections to individuals using housing subsidies to cover their housing costs. Discussion of the issue, and a proposed Income Discrimination Local Law, will continue at future committee meetings.

At the beginning of the meeting, Pete Meyers, director of the Tompkins County Workers Center, accompanied by around 50 supporters, presented the Committee with petitions bearing 3,000 signatures urging passage of a Local Law to make the Alternatives Federal Credit Union-designated Living Wage the minimum wage in Tompkins County. He said this is a first step in a push to be coordinated by the Workers Center to gain passage of such a law.