Council unanimously approves funds for homeless shelter

Janine Robitaille (left) Michael McMahon (right). Photo by Tim Becker.

The Amsterdam Common Council voted Tuesday to approve a total of $15,000 over the course of 12 months to help fund the city’s homeless shelter. The vote came after Janine Robitaille, Executive Director of Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless and Michael McMahon, Commissioner of Montgomery County Social Services, spoke before the council about the importance of keeping the shelter open.

Robitaille explained how a reduction of NY State grant funding put them in a position where they needed to ask both Montgomery County and the City of Amsterdam for additional funding. She said that the county’s $30,000 contribution and per-diem payments for DSS clients got them to about $50,000 of their needed $65,000 target.

“If we get to the $65,000 marker that would make us whole, so that we can actually operate the way we need to operate fully staffed,” said Robitaille.

Robitaille said that an additional $25,000 will still need to be raised through fundraising, but that she thought that amount was a realistic goal that they can reach.

“I know your money is tight and I read the paper and I appreciate every penny and I understand. But I also understand there’s people in your city who need a lot of help. So I am here to speak for them, to advocate for them. And I appreciate even people having the conversations and taking the time…it’s been a great thing for me to feel like people are at least listening and that’s really big for us,” said Robitaille.

Robitaille said that she would be forwarding the council her organization’s budget reports, but said that the biggest expense for them was staffing. She also said added that because her organization operates using a line of credit, that it was not necessary to receive the money in one lump sum.

McMahon spoke next and said,“I would have loved to stand here and tell you that homelessness is done in Amsterdam…it’s far from it. Across the state homelessness is up 22%.”

McMahon said that heroin use was rising to an “epidemic” level and has become one of the root causes of homelessness. He said that DSS’s placement of people in hotels had been up in 2014 over previous years and he expected the level rise as the temperatures begin to drop.

“This shelter has developed over 4 years. You have a team in place that has really worked hard to keep it going. It would be a real shame to see that go away. Because I don’t think you would get a team together again to start something up,” said McMahon.

Citing concerns over not knowing the exact fund balance and wanting to conserve contingency funds, the council opted to commit to 12 payments of $1250.

Tim Becker

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