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Close to Homeless Series

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Laura Davenport and Cassie
Laura Davenport and Cassie

Homelessness: Breaking the Cycle of Transiency

In part one of our series 'Close to Homeless', David Sommerstein reports on a family in Dickinson Center in Franklin County who have experienced the most persistent kind of rural homelessness: chronic transiency.  Go to full article

Commentary: Jill Vaughan on rural homelessness

We get up in the morning, know where the coffee cups are, shrug into a robe, and find our favorite chair to wake up in. We have a routine...and security. There's a whole group of North Country citizens who don't experience life that way. They're on the edge of homelessness. This week we're exploring what homelessness means in the North Country, how pervasive it is, and how more people can find stable places to call home. Our regular commentator Jill Vaughan knows first hand what it's like to live on the margins. She's experienced some of the problems associated with near-homelessness in her own life. And she works every day with some of the hardest cases of chronic homelessness in Franklin County. She shares her observations.  Go to full article

A County's Response to Homelessness

Martha Foley talks with Sue Rabideau, Director of Financial Services for the Franklin County Social Services Department. She's the primary person working on behalf of the homeless in the county.  Go to full article
Lynee Erlenbach and her sisters show off latch-hook rugs they made.
Lynee Erlenbach and her sisters show off latch-hook rugs they made.

Homelessness: Surviving the School Shuffle

In the North Country, homelessness often means something different than sleeping on a park bench or under a bridge. A family who can't afford a home may move in with relatives, then a month later into a motel room, then into a low-rent apartment, and on and on. Each time the family moves, the children have to get used to new surroundings, new people, and new routines. And in many cases, they have to go to a new school. Preliminary studies show up to a third of the students in many districts don't end the academic year in the same school they started. On the second day of our series, Close to Homeless, we look at how transiency affects kids' education and the schools they attend. David Sommerstein has our story.  Go to full article

With Rising Homelessness, Affordable Housing Scarce

As we've been hearing this week, homelessness in northern New York can mean many things. People stay as long as they can with relatives or several families might share a small trailer. But social workers and care providers say more and more people are literally winding up on the streets. In Franklin County, a consortium of aid groups is working to measure the number of truly homeless people. They're also working with landlords to help provide low-cost apartments. Nancy Reich is head of Comlinks, a regional housing authority based in Malone. She says even with subsidies, affordable apartments are harder than ever to find. Reich spoke with Brian Mann.  Go to full article

Proposed Section 8 Cuts Would Affect 200,000 New Yorkers

This week, we've been asking questions about what happens to families without a roof over their heads. Many turn to the government for help. "Section 8", the linchpin of federal housing policy since the Nixon era is under threat in President Bush's proposed federal budget. "Section 8" helps pay the rent for some 200,000 New Yorkers. Many may lose that support.  Go to full article

Housing Cuts Could Lead to Crisis

Low-income advocates and political leaders are warning that planned cuts to the federal Section 8 housing voucher program will accelerate northern New York and Vermont's growing problem of homelessness. Martha Foley talks with Kurt Reichelt, with the Community on Temporary Shelter, or COTS, in Burlington. The agency has organized a noon rally.  Go to full article

Low Income Tenants Face Squalor, Risk

For many poor or working class families, home often comes in the form of a small apartment or trailer. Even in the best cases, these rentals are nothing fancy: a bedroom or two, a small kitchen, a bathroom. But housing experts say more and more of the region's low-cost apartments are so squalid that they're actually unhealthy or unsafe. Brian Mann has this profile of Saranac Lake, where dozens of the worst apartment buildings are owned by a handful of landlords.  Go to full article
New Habitat homeowner Jesse Howland
New Habitat homeowner Jesse Howland

Volunteers Salvage Abandoned Home, Helping Family & Neighborhood

We've been hearing this week about the shortage of affordable housing in the North Country. In many communities, local governments and activist groups are getting organized, looking for solutions. In the Tri-Lakes area, Adirondack Habitat for Humanity has launched an effort to salvage abandoned houses. As Chris Knight reports, it's a way for low-income families to buy their own home. It's also a boost for struggling neighborhoods.  Go to full article

Helping Repair Substandard Housing

Many people in the North Country own their own homes, but they need help maintaining them to keep them safe, dry, and warm, especially in winter. The Ministry of the North County, or MINC, has a home repair program that tries to help. MINC gets more than 100 applications a year from people who need assistance fixing their homes. Sheryl Evans is MINC's outreach worker in St. Lawrence County. She spoke with David Sommerstein. You can reach MINC at 315-322-4271 or email to sbe1@lttfilsp.com  Go to full article
The Watertown Urban Mission's food pantry served 340 households in April -- an all-time high
The Watertown Urban Mission's food pantry served 340 households in April -- an all-time high

Working Together: Caregivers Create Homeless "Safety Nets"

Help isn't always within the reach of those scraping to get by in rural areas. Most counties in the North Country don't have an emergency shelter. County Social Service workers do their best to meet the needs of the poor, but there are always those who slip through the cracks. Some prefer to keep to themselves, others are too proud to ask for help, and some government agencies are too overwhelmed. As Todd Moe reports, small communities can also be rich in resources. Churches and non-profits are doing their part to stock food pantries, provide hot meals and raise awareness.  Go to full article

Call-in: Close to Homeless

Listeners discuss NCPR's week-long series of reports on homelessness in the North Country with news director Martha Foley, Franklin County Social Services Commissioner Leslie Lyon, commentator Jill Vaughan, and Cornell University sociologist Kai Schafft.  Go to full article

Rural Kids, Homeless In The Big City

Young people from rural areas who wind up homeless often land on the streets of big cities. They go to escape poverty or broken families. They're searching for jobs or an education or adventure. But many of these kids wind up victims -- addicted to drugs, hooked into prostitution. Brian Mann spent a night on the streets of Montreal and has our story.  Go to full article
Laura and her family
Laura and her family

Close to Homeless Update: Laura Davenport

It's been a momentous nine months for Laura Davenport and her family. Laura regained full custody of her children. The family's social worker said home life seemed stable enough to end regular visits. Laura got a full-time job. And she built an addition to her trailer. David Sommerstein stopped by recently to check back in.  Go to full article
Lynee Erlenbach (bottom) and her family
Lynee Erlenbach (bottom) and her family

Close to Homeless Update: Lynee Erlenbach

It's been a very good year for Lynee Erlenbach and her mom, Laura Davenport. They were featured in our Close To Homeless series last May. The addition to their trailer is almost finished. Laura has a full-time job. And Lynee told David Sommerstein things have improved at school.  Go to full article

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People who are homeless in rural regions like Northern New York redefine our picture of "homelessness". They're likely to be married, working, female, with children. They move from place to place, staying with friends and relatives, or in a series of substandard apartments and trailers. They are our invisible neighbors. NCPR talks with some of these overlooked neighbors.

Related Links

More stories on homelessness in the North Country

Homelessness Defined:
Federal Government
National Coalition for the Homeless

Advocacy:
National Coalition for the Homeless
Rural New York Initiative: Residential Mobility in Low-Income Familes

Comment on this series or
discuss rural homelessness

Recommended Reading:
Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Homeless Children and Families in Small-Town America, Yvonne Vissing

Culture & Resistance in a Homeless Community, David Wagner

Crossing the Border: Encounters Between Homeless People and Outreach Workers, Michael Rowe