AMSTERDAM — An 18-bed homeless shelter with six studio apartments for permanent supportive housing is being proposed at a former medical office building on Guy Park Avenue in Amsterdam by the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless.
The Amsterdam Planning Commission will review the special permit and site plan application for proposed renovation and reuse of 76 Guy Park Ave. immediately following a scheduled public hearing on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
The project would fill an important need for a year-round homeless shelter in the community, according to Janine Robitaille, executive director of IPH.
“People are suffering, the numbers out there have grown exponentially,” Robitaille said.
The Albany based non-profit already runs a seven-bed code blue shelter in Amsterdam at 218 E. Main St. known as Danielle’s House that provides emergency housing during the winter months when temperatures drop below freezing.
“Winter is life or death, but summer could be life or death if it’s hot out, you’re sleeping all day long and you don’t have water,” Robitaille said.
Shelters are better able to address the needs of displaced individuals when the seasonal urgency is lifted and consistent services are available year-round, Robitaille said. The goal of all shelters run by IPH is to provide clients access to the needed supports to secure permanent housing.
“It’s a process looking at individuals, what are their barriers to connect them to services and give them the service they need,” Robitaille said.
The 18-bed shelter proposed on Guy Park Avenue would serve as the permanent replacement for the seasonal code blue shelter while taking over the name Danielle’s House. IPH would continue to operate the East Main Street building with three floors of permanent housing.
The single-story Guy Park Avenue building would be renovated to include seven dorm style rooms serving women and men aged 18 or older. There would be four shared bathrooms, a laundry room, kitchen, community room, communal eating area and office space for IPH staff.
The facility would feature six studio apartments offering permanent housing with support services to previously homeless individuals with disabling conditions. Apartments would be accessible through a separate entrance from the shelter area with some common spaces.
Acknowledging the common social stigmas surrounding homeless shelters, Robitaille said the building is ideally situated in a more industrial area of the city that is still easily accessible by clients. She noted that IPH sets expectations for guests and installs security measures at all sites, including cameras. The 24/7 facility would be staffed with around seven employees per shift.
“We run a tight ship and there is no loitering outside of our buildings,” Robitaille said. “We’re a very good neighbor, we keep our properties really well and these are people that are already out in your neighborhood with no help.”
The neighborhood would immediately benefit from exterior improvements to the vacant Guy Park Avenue building that is owned by St. Mary’s Healthcare and has gone unused since 2018.
“It’s got a lot of space to do what we need to do,” Robitaille said. “It’s an empty unattractive building with a lot of asphalt that is close to the hospital, close to downtown and close to Route 30 to get up where jobs are.”
The concrete building facade would be removed while keeping the existing brick exterior intact. A covered entrance would be installed and the roof shingles replaced. The asphalt lot in front of the building would be reduced to 10 parking spots to make way for green space along the roadway.
The total cost of the renovation project has not yet been estimated, according to Robitaille, who said IPH plans to apply for state grant funding this summer to help cover costs. St. Mary’s would reportedly transfer ownership of the Guy Park Avenue property to IPH if the application is successful.
Creating a permanent shelter in the city that would provide individuals in need a path to stable housing is essential and would eliminate barriers to accessing healthcare and mental health services, according Margaret Brodie, vice president of mission at St. Mary’s
“A year-round homeless shelter will benefit the health of our community,” Brodie said. “Homeless people often delay medical care because their immediate need for safe and secure shelter takes precedence over their health.”
IPH should learn if its grant application is successful by the end of the year. The shelter and supportive housing project is tentatively planned for construction beginning in 2024 if plans are approved by the Planning Commission.
Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.