A new way to help the chronically homeless in Otsego County is taking shape at the Meadows Office Complex in Middlefield in the form of tiny houses.
The Otsego County Planning Department and the Department of Social Services teamed up to combat the problem and got help from SUNY Delhi professors and students, county officials said.
According to Otsego County Planning and Solid Waste Director Erik Scrivener, the county received an audit from New York state that said it spent about $1 million on sheltering the homeless in hotels and homeless shelters in 2015 and asked the county to reduce that amount. He said the county spends $45 per night at area hotels and $75 per night at shelters for the county's homeless.
“We saw the Tiny Home for Good project in Syracuse and thought that it would be a good fit for us,” Scrivener said.
According to Janet Elliott, director of income maintenance at the Otsego County Department of Social Services, “The tiny homes will be used to house Otsego County's chronically homeless single individuals short-term until permanent housing can be found. We plan to assess barriers people may be facing and help them engage in services they may need to become successful. A wide range of local service providers supported this project and will collaborate to address individual needs of homeless individuals.”
To fund the project, Elliott said, “We worked with the Otsego County Planning Department and received $300,000 through the Community Development Block Grant Program in addition to other funding.”
Scrivener said the planning department worked with Gary Brackett and Ted Martin, professors in the SUNY Delhi construction management program, in 2018 to have students build the tiny homes. Each house is 242 square feet and was built by students in the construction and technology classes at SUNY Delhi before they were moved to The Meadows Office Complex, he said. According to Elliott and Scrivener, the plan was to build 10 homes and six have been completed so far.
“The last two (of the six) were delivered last month. We're very happy with the homes, but with COVID interfering with classes and semestering constraints, we decided to construct the remaining four on site,” Scrivener said.
According to Scrivener, electric and plumbing work still need to be completed in the homes before anyone can move into them. He said the county is hopeful that the buildings will be ready for use beginning in 2022.
“They will have a zero emissions footprint,” he said. “They will be heated by geothermal heat pumps and the electricity will be provided by solar panels.”
Scrivener said the choice was made to put the houses at the Meadows so people could have access to the services they needed and to provide a community for the people. He said a community center was also built on the Meadows complex to help the homeless.
“Otsego County chronically homeless persons need individualized evaluation and service provision to end the cycle of homelessness,” Elliott said. “This project will focus on determining the type of housing chronically homeless persons need to become permanently housed, and reduce higher costs of perpetual emergency shelter usage.”
Scrivener said, “I am excited that this project is almost finished. I want to see it in action and helping people.”
Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_VickyK on Twitter.