Mayor talks homelessness ahead of activists' march


Rochester Mayor Tom Richards and leaders of human service agencies in the city and county held a press conference this morning to explain everything the city does for the area’s homeless. It can’t be a coincidence that members of many social-justice groups, including Take Back the Land-Rochester and Metro Justice, will hold a housing march tonight.

The groups want city officials to press the banks to be more flexible with people who are on the verge of losing their homes. They also want the city to declare a moratorium on foreclosures until officials come up with better solutions to the homeless problem.

Rochester and Monroe County have a joint 10-year plan to end homelessness. It was developed in 2007 and is being updated now, officials say.

“If a mother and kids find themselves homeless, there is aid,” Richards said. “There is no reason for [them] to be on the street.”

Richards said that the city has a two-tiered approach to combating homelessness: direct services for the homeless and programs to keep people in their homes; as well as additional investment in affordable housing. The problem in Rochester is not that there isn’t enough housing, Richards said, it’s that there’s not enough good housing.

“We have a plan that’s producing results, and we’ve got to stick with it,” Richards said.

Richards and the agency leaders talked up the city’s strategy, but available statistics aren’t as encouraging. The United Way reports that:

• Close to 20 percent of foreclosures are rental properties, and there is no assistance for that.

• Adult homelessness is chiefly caused by poverty and the lack of affordable housing.

• About six in ten homeless people were sheltered in an emergency shelter or
transitional housing facility; the rest were sleeping on the streets or other places not meant for human habitation.

• During 2007 in Monroe County, an estimated 7,700 to 8,200 individuals were homeless at some point: 5,968 households encompassing 3,527 single adults, 915 youth on their own, and 1,525 families. Ten percent of the households experienced chronic homelessness.

The march begins at 5 p.m. at Washington Square Park on South Clinton Avenue.