Nasso asks for city financial help to re-open homeless shelter


John Nasso (front) speaks to city officials. Photo by Tim Becker.

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.


About Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.

13 Responses to Nasso asks for city financial help to re-open homeless shelter

  1. AvatarCharlie K. says:

    “That’s the rumor.”
    That’s not how you’re supposed to govern.

    • Avatardiane says:

      Charlie, that is true. But for decades now we have heard this same rumor. Part of it is true, they come here from the city because it is cheaper to live here. It may be cheaper to live here, but in the long run it is costing the city and county greatly in our reputation as a welfare magnet. I won’t go into all the other issues as a result, we all know they are numerous. However, I did not bring the one up about the sign in the train station inviting people here 🙂

      • AvatarCharlie K. says:

        Allow me to say this slowly:
        The. County. Nor. The. City. Has. A. Reputation. Of. Being. A. Welfare. Magnet.
        It. Is. Not. Easier. To. Get. On. Welfare. In. Amsterdam. Than. Anywhere. Else. In. The. State.

        The only people who go on and on and on about it are the same six people that call the radio every day and maybe the 10 people who regularly tune in.

  2. Avatardiane says:

    By the way, these rumors have been around. The fact is that I do listen to the media and read what is out there and talk to people. Others choosing to bury their heads in the sand and ignore what is going on and being said, does not make it any more right or wrong either. I just choose to admit that I listen and they don’t.

    • Avatarfed up says:

      Wait. You’re willing to let people be homeless during what is supposed to be an exceptionally harsh winter because you heard a rumor? Seriously? I can’t even engage in an argument with someone who makes such a ludicrous statement.

    • Avatarrogo says:

      I agree with Diane, let the county send out more numbers (not names) on dss recipients. Has it gone up?? How many get off roles?? How many move here?? etc. Let county issue factual numbers.

      • AvatarTim Becker says:

        Whether the numbers are up, down or otherwise, how would they impact the decision to fund the shelter or not?

    • Avatarsteve Krutz says:

      Diane your statements are rude, ignorant and basically BS . Everyone has different reasons for being on Public Assistance or needing help at times. Your blanket statements lately about people are out of line

  3. Avatarfed up says:

    My husband asked that I add this passage from the Christmas Carol
    “At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge, … it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”
    “Are there no prisons?”
    “Plenty of prisons…”
    “And the Union workhouses.” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”
    “Both very busy, sir…”
    “Those who are badly off must go there.”
    “Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
    “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

  4. Homelessness is not a choice. It befalls people for many different reasons. I cannot justify leaving helpless people on the street in the bitter cold for any reason. We should not consider cost as much as our responsibility to our fellow men, women and children. This is unquestionably a moral imperative.

    Just remember, a poor, homeless woodworker and his pregnant wife found shelter in a barn when they had nowhere else to go. That impoverished wanderer would have been considered odd, as he was following signs in the sky while his wife was so heavy with child. He’d probably earn a mental illness label today. Instead, kindness prevailed, a baby was born and the world changed forever.

  5. AvatarTJ Kelley says:

    Mayor Thane is absolutely correct that the failure to shelter the city’s homeless citizens is nothing short of moral turpitude. I’d even go so far as to call it depraved indifference!

    But an equally disturbing trend in the legislative philosophy of this Council is its belief that the authority of government should be discharged not unlike that of a business. The major problem there, however, is that the business model has no profit motive to see to the security (food, shelter, safety) of its consumer (the Amsterdamian), nor does it have a financial prerogative to advance the quality and standard of living (public works prgms, education, development, etc).

    If Ms. Hatzenbuhler and Mr. Barone are going to champion this ‘Oliver Twist Workhouse’ morality crusade, let us hope their government doesn’t one day decide to rescind social security or disability payments. That tether ball would sure hurt.

  6. AvatarRobert Stern says:

    Public assistance benefit levels are set by the state and federal governments. Counties administer most of the programs and contribute about a quarter of the cost of cash assistance (what most people call welfare) and a little less than a quarter toward Medicaid. The city pays nothing.

  7. AvatarJohn Bottisti says:

    I know of two people that needed a helping hand. One used the homeless shelter. Not sure how long. I do know it was for a limited period of time. The other received a night or two shelter from a local church. Both are currently employed and doing okay.
    I too believe it is a moral issue that needs support from all of our area municipalities. It does matter. It does help folks in need. It is not, and doesn’t pretend to be, a solution for the ills of society. But it is part of that solution.
    And by the way, neither of these folks were from NYC. Both were from here.
    As a seperate issue, I have no problem with the county providing raw numbers of recipients going on and off of social services. But all counties would need to do it and it would need to be related to population, unemployment, wealth indices, etc. Maybe they exist already in some form.