There’s encouraging news from this year’s state of homelessness report. Megan Stuart is director of the Housing and Homeless Coalition of Central New York.
"This year we saw a six percent decrease in the overall population of people experiencing homelessness, which actually goes against the national trend, which has been increasing slightly. We're thrilled about that, but there's obviously a lot more work to do."
Their annual report shows a 42 percent decrease of homelessness on the streets since 2016. The number of people in shelter and street outreach programs on one night last week was 516; 494 were in shelters and 24 on the streets.
For the first time, the presentation included panelists who were once homeless. Tim Donovan of Auburn lost everything to alcoholism. Now 13-years sober, he’s involved in several organizations that help the homeless.
"I didn't want to be homeless. But when you lose your job, your income, you become dependent on social services and the resources in your community to survive."
Donovan credits AA and his deep spirituality for getting through those times. Today, he says he has a great apartment.
Tyrice Miller was only 17 when he was abandoned by his parents, and forced to live in a shelter. He's now 23.
"For me, it was a hard realization to go through what I've seen people on the streets go through for a long time. I never thought it would have happened to me. Inside, it was demoralizing, but it made me more resilient."
Today, Miller chairs the Coalition's Youth Advisory Board, and is working at the Boys and Girls Club. He says the children there inspire him, and he hopes to give them a sense that someone cares so they don't end up on the same path. Megan Stuart with the Housing and Homeless Coalition says they’re focusing on ending youth homelessness over the next year because people under the age of 24 are exceptionally vulnerable.
Rex Beverage credits he Salvation Army for getting he and his daughter back on their feet.
"I'm a single parent of an awesome little girl. At the time when we were homeless, she was about to turn 5. It was really hard for me, and definitely brings you down when you're in that situation. It's not always easy to get out of it."
He and his daughter now live in an apartment, but it was a long path. He says it wasn't easy as a single dad with a little girl to find a place. He says having more affordable housing options would help many people facing similar situations.