Poughkeepsie … Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has announced the County is nearing the purchase of property at 26 Oakley Street in the City of Poughkeepsie, to serve as the Dutchess County’s new Emergency Housing Facility for single adults – transforming the County’s emergency housing response system, which will connect those needing housing and services with providers where they reside. New evidence-based programs and intensive services located at one facility facilitate the County’s new model for assisting those experiencing homelessness find permanent housing. The facility will replace the current temporary housing units (PODS) on the Dutchess County Jail campus, which have been used as an emergency shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic but do not have adequate space for the new services and programs and were not designed for long-term use.
County Executive Molinaro forwarded a resolution to the Dutchess County Legislature’s Public Works and Capital Projects Committee at its April 7th meeting to authorize $2.1 million for the County to purchase the 1.432-acre property and $1 million for the Department of Public Works to design the new facility; the $3.1 million total will come from the County’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) allocation from the federal government; the full Legislature will vote on the resolution at its May 9th board meeting. Following that approval, the Legislature will consider allocating additional ARP funds later this year for the construction of the facility. The new facility is one of several investments the County is funding with ARP funding, including, among others, a countywide Youth Opportunity Center (the YOU); a successful grant programs for youth non-profit organizations, municipalities and non-profit infrastructure needs, new parks equipment, countywide high-speed internet accessibility and other public safety investments.
The new facility will be the cornerstone of Dutchess County’s innovative and collaborative housing-first approach to emergency housing, providing those experiencing homelessness not only temporary housing, but also extensive wrap-around services co-located within the same facility to assist them in their path toward stable housing and independent living, with the County’s goal of preventing homelessness whenever possible and ensuring if an individual does experience homelessness, it is an infrequent and singular occurrence.
County Executive Molinaro said, “As housing instability continues to challenge too many, we are committed to a new facility – a sanctuary – and new model that addresses temporary emergency housing, provides referral to transitional and permanent housing opportunities, and offers intense service support to address the issues that lead to an individual’s homelessness. Experienced and compassionate service providers throughout our community make a real difference in people’s lives every day. Our new facility will connect these organizations with the residents we serve – all under one roof providing the most efficient delivery of services making the greatest impact helping individuals find their path to permanent housing and success. This sanctuary will be a place of safety and service for those we serve and the community around us.”
Based on the successful model implemented in Bergen County, NJ that has garnered nationwide accolades, Dutchess County’s facility will feature housing for approximately 100 adults in various types of accommodations that are ADA accessible; administrative office space for community partners, including common consultation and meeting rooms; as well as counseling, programming, activity, relaxation and dining spaces, utilizing both internal and external areas of the property – a design that embodies the County’s innovative new methodology for helping those experiencing homelessness find permanent housing. The PODS, which have been used as a temporary shelter, are scheduled to be removed as part of the County’s Justice & Transition Center construction project. Dutchess County has contracted with Julia Orlando, director of the Bergen County (NJ) Housing, Health and Human Services Center, to serve as a consultant and assist the County in making the project successful. Ms. Orlando discussed the project with leadership of both legislative caucuses at their February 2022 meeting.
Ms. Orlando said, “I’m excited to work with Dutchess County, which already has so many services in place to assist those experiencing homelessness, and help the County further develop its investment in its new facility, which will transform its emergency housing response system by bringing together community partners to meet vulnerable individuals where they are and help them succeed. Our facility and housing model have been transformative in Bergen County and are replicable for communities willing to make the commitment to change the lives of those experiencing homelessness – and Dutchess County is clearly making that commitment, as it has for years.”
In addition to the staff from the County’s departments of Community and Family Services (DCFS), Behavioral and Community Health (DBCH), and Planning and Development, local providers will be housed at the new facility to link guests to appropriate, evidence-based programs and intensive case-management services to help them secure and maintain stable accommodations – be it assistance in enrolling in state and federal medical and benefits programs, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); offering mental health and substance use counseling, as well as vocational and job preparation specialists; or help transitioning to permanent housing. Additionally, the County will work with local law enforcement to ensure the safety of the facility’s guests and local residents.
Hudson River Housing Executive Director Christa Hines said, “For years, Dutchess County has been an active partner in helping those experiencing homelessness find and maintain safe, stable housing – collaborating with local providers to bring about impactful change in people’s lives. Having the myriad County resources that have long been available, combined with the services local partners like Hudson River Housing provide, housed in a central housing facility has the potential to revolutionize the way we, as a community, care for those experiencing homelessness, and we’re eager for this life-changing facility to be built.”
The existing 24,640-square-foot, three-floor structure will require renovations as well as property modifications to ensure safety and security for both guests and neighbors. Among the renovations needed at the structure, the Department of Public Works will:
• realign sleeping quarters;
• expand the kitchen and dining area;
• provide Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access;
• create a courtyard, including a screening garden wall; and
• address code issues.
Through a recent Request for Proposals (RFP) process, Tinkelman Associates was chosen as the designer to work with DCFS and Ms. Orlando to plan and design the facility, as well as oversee its construction, pending legislative approval.
Andrew O’Grady, Chief Executive Officer of Mental Health America of Dutchess County, said, “We, as a society, must rethink the way we approach homelessness and not provide just a temporary roof over someone’s head, but meet them where they are and offer the resources to attain a permanent home. For this facility to succeed, people must know these accommodations are safe or they will not utilize it, and the community must be assured it’s safe to have this facility in their neighborhood – and Dutchess County is creating a secure model that satisfies both of those concerns. Mental Health America of Dutchess County is proud to collaborate with Dutchess County to create a model that will lead New York and be replicable in communities throughout the state.”
Earlier this month, the County released its 2022 Housing Needs Assessment, a comprehensive analysis of demographic and housing data and evaluation of trends over recent years, as well as projections for affordable housing needs over the next two decades. County Executive Molinaro said the creation of an emergency housing facility reaffirms the County’s commitment to addressing the housing needs of every resident.
“Throughout the nation, including Dutchess County, communities are working to ensure every resident can find safe, stable housing they can afford,” the County Executive said, “and providing those in need of permanent housing the resources and services to attain and keep it is a tremendous step that will help many in our County. This facility will undoubtedly save lives and offer a brighter future for the guests welcomed through its doors.”
The County’s goal is to take ownership of the property shortly after the Legislature approves the resolution at its May meeting, with construction of the new facility to be completed by late summer 2023, and the facility is expected to be occupied in fall 2023.