Assemblywoman Buttenschon Joins Roundtable to Discuss the Impact of COVID-19 on Homeless Population

Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon (D-Utica/Rome) took part in an online roundtable hosted by the New York State Assembly Social Services Committee to examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on homeless individuals and families. The discussion was one of a series of regional roundtables aimed at analyzing steps taken by homeless shelters and discussing further action the state can take to make New York a safer place for all.

“As policymakers, it’s our duty to create programs and legislation that will help all residents of the state navigate this crisis and our homeless population is no exception,” said Buttenschon. “While the precise impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still difficult to determine, homeless individuals and their families face unique challenges that put them at greater risk of contracting the virus, including the inability to safely socially distance themselves or access adequate hygiene products. This forum is only the first step, and I’m hopeful that these discussions will help us provide long-term relief to some of our more vulnerable community members in these trying times.”

The Assembly Social Services Committee has held regional forums throughout the state to gather input from various stakeholders about the effects of the pandemic on the state’s homeless population and what steps homeless shelters are taking to mitigate those effects. The committee was particularly interested in testimony regarding the procedures, infection rates and unique challenges of each region. Furthermore, the committee heard testimony about a possible influx of newly homeless individuals and families that would be seeking assistance from shelters once the statewide moratorium on evictions is lifted on Aug. 20 and the steps these shelters would take to accommodate new residents.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already weighed in on the issue, recommending a community-wide approach focused on securing housing for homeless individuals and families and helping them comply with social distancing and safety requirements. However, even the most ambitious plans that have been suggested thus far would be unable to accommodate New York’s homeless population.

The Utica roundtable featured testimony from representatives of a host of Mohawk Valley organizations, including: Commissioner Colleen Box-Fahy, Deputy Commissioner Gina Beach and Homeless Coordinator Mary Kernan of the Oneida County Department of Family and Community Services; Steve Darman of the Mohawk Valley Housing and Homeless Coalition; Pat Costello of the United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica; Betty-Joan Beaudry, Director of Community Impact at the United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica and 2-1-1 Mid-York; and Wendy Goetz, Executive Director of the Rescue Mission of Utica.

“This roundtable re-confirmed the dedication and commitment of our county and community partners as they addressed the homeless issues in our area,” Buttenschon said. “I look forward to a continued partnership to provide safe and healthy conditions for all our residents.”