ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Officials announced $1.8 million in combined funding to expand mental health support and other social services. In a joint press conference County Executive Dan McCoy and Mayor Kathy Sheehan announced the funds but houseless individuals are skeptical the new funds will get them into stable housing.
Jasmine Tice created a home with her friends in Washington Park after falling on hard times. “We have our own little family and it’s really important to me and I’m not afraid to fight for what’s right.”
She said they can’t find affordable, permanent housing. And their issues are compounded every time they have to start over again, which they were afraid would happen Wednesday morning after they woke up to news that their camp would be bulldozed, with the last of what they own tossed if they did not leave the park.
“I’ve just been sitting here waiting and I’m sick of being afraid. Just come if you’re going to come. You can take it with my cold dead body at this point,” said Tice.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan said people are not permitted to camp in the park and there is immediate help available for them.
“This is an all hands on deck approach. And the thing that I have to say is Albany County, while we don’t have enough affordable housing while we always need more and always need to build more in an emergent situation this county has incredible resources,” said Sheehan.
Tice and her friends say one reason they avoid shelters is because, they say, they are dangerous. They don’t want to get robbed and they don’t want to be exposed to drug use.
“This is like the safest place I’ve ever been at at this point in time and I’m really glad I found these people because you know we are not homeless. This is our home” said Tice.
Wednesday’s announcement included plans to reopen the Mercy House homeless shelter as well as an expansion to New York State’s Mental Health Court and the ACCORD program.
The mayor and county executive say part of the expansion will include supplementary funding, specifically geared toward connecting people, like Tice, to resources.
“The Albany County Department of Mental Health said we need more of that resource, who is going to be that soft-hand, the person that’s going to help bring folks from where they are to where they need to be,” said Sheehan.
County Executive Dan McCoy said the county can’t build its way out of the issue and needs to find a better approach.
“You can’t. We have to be creative when it comes to tiny homes, trailers, and things like that, start communities. We have to look at this differently,” said McCoy.
He said it’s the first phase in addressing the mental health and homeless issues, and more plans will be rolled out in the future.
But for Tice the help can’t come soon enough. The city has thrown her stuff away five times, she said, and the last time they threw away her glasses and documents that she needed to start over again. She hopes the new announcement will make a difference in their lives.
“It’s not like we want to live here,” said Tice.