John Nasso, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Fulton & Montgomery Counties, asked the Amsterdam Common Council on Tuesday night to consider contributing $15,000 to help offset a total of $90,000 needed to re-open the homeless shelter in Amsterdam which is run by Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless. Nasso, who is also a member of the local advisory board for the shelter, said that Interfaith’s funding had decreased drastically this year and would not be able to open the shelter this winter unless the total amount of money could be raised.
Alderman Ron Barone suggested that if some of the people served by the shelter were capable of work, that Nasso could look for a grant that would provide the shelter with funds in exchange for the work they did.
“If we could put some of them to work, you could use that grant also to keep you going until you really get it moving along.” said Barone.
Nasso said he would look into it but added that the purpose of the shelter was to be a short-term solution. “We do have a case manager with this shelter. And his job is to get people who live in the shelter for as short a time as possible and get them into more permanent housing, get them to substance abuse treatment, whatever they need, get them a job and then they can become more independent.”
Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler asked, “The people who are homeless, have they been to the county for assistance and they don’t qualify? Or are there other factors like they don’t want to work, they don’t want to get into a substance abuse program?”
“Both,” replied Nasso, “the first thing people have to do before they go to the shelter is go to [the Department of Social Services]. And very often DSS would pay for them to be in the shelter because it’s less expensive than putting them in a hotel or something else.”
Nasso also said that some people are “sanctioned” by DSS for doing something wrong, after which DSS would not pay to have them placed in a shelter.
“If it’s an adult, it’s easier to say ‘no, find your own way.’,” said Nasso, “But if the adult has a couple kids, and they are sanctioned from DSS, I feel more of an obligation to do something.”
“What are generally the sanctions that are coming out from DSS?” asked Hatzenbuhler, “I mean are people making an attempt or they just don’t want to comply? I mean everybody knows that anybody that wants assistance comes to Montgomery County, specifically to Amsterdam, that’s the rumor…”
“That’s the rumor,” stated Nasso.
“…and they get assistance automatically, immediately, they can get an apartment, they can get TV, they get utilities, they get this, they get that. Why are these people being sanctioned?” asked Hatzenbuhler.
Nasso responded, “First of all, Montgomery County DSS goes by state laws. So it’s the same law here as Saratoga, Albany or New York City…”
“But their money goes farther here,” added Hatzenbuhler.
“…because we have [lower] cost of living here, right,” said Nasso.
Nasso went on to say that sometimes people are sanctioned by DSS for not following certain rules or directives from DSS, or sometimes for simple mistakes such as missing a single appointment. In the latter case, Nasso said, “I give them more of a break than DSS.”
Alderman Ed Russo said they would take the matter under consideration and discuss it further at a future committee meeting.