When it comes to addressing homelessness and the need for affordable housing, the City of Rochester, Monroe County and the area’s myriad service providers, housing providers and funders are a national model of collaboration. The Rochester community is highly committed to, and works diligently to assist the homeless and to help individuals and families avoid homelessness.
The City has a long history of providing quality, affordable housing for citizens. It recognizes that affordable housing is vital for overall economic and community development. Affordable housing also prevents homelessness and provides permanent solutions for those who have experienced homelessness.
Eliminating homelessness is this community’s goal. It is a difficult one to achieve and reaching it requires efforts that go far beyond our considerable investments in affordable housing. The City also focuses on—and is strongly committed to the following priorities:
- rapidly re-housing individuals and families who become homeless; and
- ensuring that appropriate services are available to support individuals and families facing homelessness.
Rochester is extremely fortunate to have dedicated and talented individuals from many organizations who are strongly committed and provide leadership in this effort. In fact, when it comes to providing assistance to the homeless and helping individuals and families avoid homelessness, our community is a model of cooperation. Collaborations between the City of Rochester and the County of Monroe, in partnership with the many organizations that fund and provide services to the homeless, including the Rochester Housing Authority have resulted in efforts that are well organized through the Continuum of Care and the Homeless Services Network.
Such collaborations and coordination among Rochester’s human service organizations (some of which are featured below) that service the homeless is something we can all be proud of. We should continue to nurture and grow these relationships to further meet our needs and challenges, especially during difficult economic times.
Homeless Service Network
This organization facilitates networking, coordination, consultations and fundraising among individuals who work for, or with agencies who provide high-quality accessible and effective health, social, housing, and other services to people who are homeless. Its members represent more than 50 community agencies, including Monroe County, the City of Rochester and the Rochester Housing Authority.
Continuum of Care
This team is composed of staff from Monroe County, the City of Rochester, the United Way of Greater Rochester and the Homeless Service Providers’ Network. This group facilitates and evaluates the implementation of Rochester’s Homeless Continuum of Care Plan. Each year, they coordinate the community’s submission for the federal department of Housing and Urban Development’s Super NOFA (Notice of Funding Availability). This includes collecting community data, ranking proposals to meet community needs, and writing the Rochester/Monroe County application for HUD funds.
10 Year Plan to End Homelessness
Evidence of our community’s exemplary cooperation is the substantial planning and implementation that has been completed, including:
Housing Options for All: A Strategy to End Homelessness in Rochester/Monroe County. This document describes the Rochester area’s plan to end homelessness in response a challenge from HUD to do so. The so-called “10 Year Plan to End Homelessness” is currently being updated. This 2007 document was the culmination of input of 200 persons over a period of 18 months. It includes input from a wide cross-section of the community, including homeless and formerly homeless individuals, service providers, members of local government, representatives from health and human services providers, business, criminal justice and neighborhood groups. The recommendations included three main thrusts: prevention, comprehensive support services and the development of affordable, appropriate permanent housing. The current update will assess the progress of the plan and make adjustments based upon recent data, including new information relative to the homeless strategy work underway and the completion of some large affordable housing developments geared toward providing permanent housing options to the homeless. The update is anticipated being completed before the end of the year.
Rochester Monroe County Supportive Housing Plan. The supportive housing plan is a means to address all three components included in the 10 Year Plan to end homelessness mentioned above for persons who are most likely to be homeless repeatedly or for long periods of time. The Plan provides guidance and recommendations for increasing the availability of supportive housing. It includes an assessment of housing needs and gaps among those facing homelessness and who are in need of affordable housing. It also examines ongoing supportive services, projections of the types and quantities of additional permanent supportive housing units required to fill the need over the ten-year period, cost projections, identification of available permanent supportive housing funding resources from public and private sources and best practices from other states and communities.
Homelessness Resolution Strategy
To provide support of the above efforts, the City of Rochester took the initiative in 2010 to lead an effort to further implement some of the most vital initiatives called for in the plan to end homelessness and launched the Homeless Resolution Strategy. The goal of the effort is to help identify the community’s unmet needs for emergency placement facilities (hotels), safe haven shelters and permanent housing for the homeless. In collaboration with the County of Monroe and key housing agencies, the goal of the plan is to identify how to implement a strategy to meet these needs. This includes the development of a coordinated entry system to help better identify and meet the needs of those threatened with homelessness. The plan also includes a strategy to eliminate the use of the Cadillac Hotel for homeless placements and to develop “Housing First” permanent housing options for the most difficult-to-serve homeless populations, who are often individuals suffering from chronic chemical dependency and mental illnesses. Read the final report and action plan for this project.
City of Rochester Programs for the Homeless
Over time, the Rochester community has developed a robust system to assist people experiencing homelessness or facing the possibility of becoming homeless. This system includes shelters, transitional housing and permanent housing solutions in addition to a wide range of services. This is not to say that the community’s current system will eliminate homelessness. However, the City will continue to work towards conquering these difficult issues and stay focused on expanding and improving current efforts. These include:
Creation of Permanent Housing Units and Solutions for the Homeless
The highest priority for the Continuum of Care has been establishing permanent affordable housing for the homeless. At this time, there are more than 1,200 permanent housing units in Rochester and Monroe County that are specifically dedicated to help meet the needs of people who become homeless. In the last six years, the City has dedicated $10.5 million in HOME funds and $6.1 million
in cash capital funds for affordable housing development.
Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program
In collaboration with the County of Monroe, this program was launched in 2009 and extended through the middle of 2012 with a total of $4,743,535 in funding from the stimulus legislation. This program’s myriad services included housing search and landlord negotiation; financial assistance for arrears in rent and utilities to prevent evictions for those at risk of homelessness; financial assistance for short-term first months’ rent and security deposits; moving and storage in order to provide rapid re-housing for those fitting the definition of homeless; and tenant education. The program has assisted more than 3,000 households to avoid homelessness or to help households to secure permanent housing after becoming homeless. In total, more than $2.5 million in financial assistance has been distributed for emergency rental assistance and security deposits. In July 2012, Rochester’s City Council authorized $209,500 to continue the program and in October 2012, City Council will be asked to approve an additional $311,055 for this program. The total of $520,555 will provide funding for housing search and landlord coordination (or interface), tenant education, and short term rental assistance. The City is working very hard to identify continued funding for this program.
Emergency Solutions Grant Program
The City administers this HUD grant and has provided $2.8 million over the past six years to providers of services and shelter to the homeless. Our community’s wonderful services providers benefitting from these funds include:
Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS
The City administers a grant from HUD and has provided $3.9 million over the past six years to participating agencies to help provide housing subsidies for individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS. Service providers benefiting from these funds include:
Tenant Education and Eviction Prevention
The City has provided more than $900,000 in funding to the Legal Aid Society of Rochester, Monroe County Legal Assistance Center and The Housing Council for tenant education aimed at reducing transiency and professional legal assistance to low-income households facing eviction.
The City established one of the most effective and long-standing foreclosure prevention programs in the country through The Housing Council and Empire Justice Center. The City has provided $2.2 million over the past six years for these programs. In the past six years, 2,282 households have benefited from foreclosure prevention counseling through The Housing Council and many have also received legal assistance from the Empire Justice Center to help avoid mortgage foreclosure. This program was central in reversing the trend of foreclosure Rochester experienced a decade ago.
Below are some statistics regarding the City’s commitment to preventing homelessness, assisting the homeless and ensuring quality, affordable housing:
- Created 649 new affordable rental housing units since July 2006. Hundreds more are in the pipeline through projects such as Holy Rosary and El Camino Phase II.
- Among the above units are a substantial number specifically created to provide permanent housing options for the homeless, such as those at Eastman Commons. Many also provide housing to serve special needs populations, such as those who are vulnerable to become homelessness. These projects include the East House, DePaul’s West Main and DePaul NOTA. Additional similar projects are in the pipeline, including Son House and the Carriage Factory.
- Improved and preserved 2,230 affordable housing units since July 2006. Hundreds more are to be improved soon at projects such as Pinnacle Place, Tryon Park and Harris Park.
- Made 1,163 housing units lead safe through the Lead Hazard Control Program since July 2006.
- In total, using HOME funding and City capital funds to leverage state and federal resources and private financing, the City has enabled more than $400 million in investment in affordable rental housing since July 2006.
Monroe County Department of Human Services
Annual Report on Housing and Homeless Services, April, 2012
Revised: October 16, 2012