Shelter officials to speak to council, Russo expects vote today

Even though members of the Amsterdam Common Council expressed reluctance to use contingency funds toward helping the city’s homeless shelter open this winter, Alderman Ed Russo said after Monday’s committee meeting that he expects a vote today on the resolution he sponsored which would approve the expense. He also said that representatives of the shelter would be at today’s council meeting to speak on the subject.

At Monday’s meeting, Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler said that she had recently visited the shelter and spoke to the manager at the facility. According to Hatzenbuhler, the shelter had been funded in recent years by Ascension Health, the parent company of St. Mary’s Hospital, but that the funding was only for a limited number of years and would not be available this year. The shelter, operated by Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, applied for a grant to replace the funding, but did not receive it.

At a meeting last month, John Nasso of Catholic Charities of Fulton and Montgomery Counties who is a member of the local advisory board for the shelter said that the shelter needs and additional $90,000 in order to open. Nasso said he had asked Montgomery County for $60,000 and requested $15,000 from the city. Montgomery County has since approved $30,000 in funding for the shelter.

Members discussed the idea of breaking the requested $15,000 amount into six payments or possibly transferring funds from another line in the budget.

Citing a number of recent issues that may require use of contingency funds, Alderman Ron Baron asked, “How can we as a city do this without short-changing ourselves?”

Given that the exact fund balance of the city is not known, Alderwoman Valerie Beekman suggested updating the language of resolution to state that funding would be contingent on the availability of funds.

“The unfortunate thing is that if they don’t get the funding, they won’t open,” said Hatzenbuhler, “so what do we do?”

Hatzenbuhler said the shelter hopes to open November 1st. “Look how cold it is out there already at night,” she added.

Tim Becker

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