The initiative will be using a street canvassing project during evenings and weekends to locate homeless individuals in the Oswego community and link them to the appropriate resources to improve their situation and prevent individuals from living on Oswego streets, parks and public space areas. Mayor Barlow is proposing to contract with Oswego County Opportunities, a private not-for-profit organization offering more than fifty human service programs throughout Oswego County.
The Oswego Homelessness Outreach Program will provide individuals with connections and references to emergency shelter services, community resources, emergency food and personal hygiene packs. The program will also provide transportation for those wishing to be connected to resources immediately. Mayor Barlow says the program will help increase the knowledge of community leaders about the severity of homelessness in the City of Oswego and will likely help connect homeless individuals to already established services they may not be aware of.
"The number of homeless individuals in our community has been gradually rising for a number of years. I want to be proactive and get ahead of this issue before it becomes a crisis and more difficult to manage," said Mayor Billy Barlow. "Combating homelessness benefits our community in several different ways. This program will help connect the homeless to available resources and fits the larger vision we have for helping people overcome personal and situational barriers, improving access to safe housing and ultimately putting them on a path to self sustainability," Barlow continued. "Secondly, as we work towards revitalizing our downtown and improving our parks we cannot have homeless individuals living in public space. It does not compliment the positive improvements we are making and does not convey the right message as to who we are as a community. This initial outreach program will position the City of Oswego to be proactive in combating homelessness and assists our most vulnerable community members when they need it most," Barlow said.
Diane Cooper Currier, Executive Director of Oswego County Opportunities said, "OCO is happy to partner with the Mayor Barlow and the City of Oswego on this initiative to reduce homelessness, connect individuals to vital resources and provide opportunities to educate community members and businesses about the resources OCO offers as well as other community agencies in assisting people experiencing a housing crisis. Outreach Services will develop relationships with individuals who may be experiencing homelessness or a housing crisis. The focus of this relationship is to build trust and a "bridge" between the individual and the support they may need to be successful in maintaining safe, affordable housing for themselves and their families."
Commissioner of Oswego County Department of Social Services Stacy Alvord stated, "The Oswego County Department of Social Services recognizes the strength of collaboration in meeting the needs of our most vulnerable citizens. This is a great example of how working together works to provide hope for those who are without a place to call home."
Mayor Barlow's proposed $25,000 funding allocation to Oswego County Opportunities will provide street canvassing efforts beginning August 1st through December 31st from 12:30pm to 9:00pm on Thursdays and Fridays and 9:00am to 3:00pm during the weekends conducted by two staff personnel. Barlow says the information gathered from this initial outreach effort will equip City and County leaders with better information to implement policies in the future to prevent and manage homelessness throughout the County.
In June, Mayor Barlow and City of Oswego Section 8 Rental Assistance Program Director Nathan Emmons joined the Rescue Mission in the City of Syracuse for a day of street canvassing to see firsthand the positive impacts and effectiveness such a program could have in the City of Oswego. The mayor says if the initial outreach program is effective, he is prepared to identify more long term and permanent methods to combat homelessness in the future.