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January 19, 2016 - 5:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in homeless, public assistance, social services, DSS.

The governor's recent executive order on how to deal with homeless people in local municipalities during cold weather won't have much impact on Genesee County, said Eileen Kirkpatrick, the county's director of Social Services.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's order has been widely reported to mandate that local law enforcement require any homeless person found out and about in freezing weather to be taken off the streets and placed in an appropriate shelter.

That isn't exactly what the governor ordered, Kirkpatrick said.

"Neither law enforcement nor DSS has any legal authority to put anybody anyplace they don't want to go," Kirkpatrick said.

The order doesn't change anything for how lack-of-shelter situations have long been handled in Genesee County, she said.

All of the law enforcement agencies, along with the Mental Health department, have long worked well with DSS to help resolve lack-of-shelter situations.

When a cop finds a person who is seemingly without shelter during freezing weather, the officer tries to determine if the person is intoxicated or has a mental health issue that would inhibit the person from making a rational decision about his or her own safety.

If the person is intoxicated, the officer has the authority to seek medical treatment for the individual.

If there appears to be a mental health issue, mental health workers are contacted and the person is taken in, usually to Warsaw's hospital, where a mental health evaluation will be made to determine if the person is capable of making a rational decision about his or her shelter.

If a person is capable of making a rational decision, then the decision to stay on the street or not is up to that individual and, as Kirkpatrick said, neither law enforcement nor DSS has the authority to force that person into a shelter.

If the person, however, would like shelter, there are options.

When the warming shelter is open, as it is tonight, women and children can be taken to the shelter.

Males without children can be given a bus ticket to either Rochester or Buffalo and directions to a shelter that accepts men. If the busses are not running, an after-hours DSS worker can help arrange for a room at a local hotel or motel.

Adults judged to be competent to make their own decisions always have the choice to stay on the street, but when officials find children without shelter, Child Protective Services always has the authority to take the child to an appropriate shelter.

There doesn't seem to be the stereotypical homelessness issue in Batavia that might exist in larger cities, Kirkpatrick said. You don't expect to find people sleeping under bridges here.

However, there is an issue with people being "inadequately housed," she said. These might be people living nine to a two-bedroom trailer, or who stay with different people throughout the week or in another shelter-insecure situation.

Sometimes it's just a financial issue. There are also people who have such a bad reputation for destroying property among local landlords that they find it difficult to secure a rental.

In all cases, DSS has programs in place to help people who need assistance with shelter, she said. If there is somebody without shelter and they're competent to make that decision, then that is their decision. Typically, they've made that decision because they don't want to go along with the rules that go along with getting assistance from DSS.

"There are some people who are in a perpetual state of homelessness because that's their choice as an adult," Kirkpatrick said. "There is assistance available for anybody who wants to abide by the rules and what New York State dictates. These aren't Eileen Kirkpatrick's rules. These are the state rules."

July 22, 2013 - 9:24pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in food, employment, social services, Foodlink.

If you struggle with poverty, Foodlink invites you to SNAP out of it.

SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and it is available to Genesee County residents through SNAP E&T (Employment and Training).

Jerome Nathaniel, SNAP outreach and assistance coordinator, is offering outreach clinics to Genesee County families on the last Monday each month at a Foodlink partner agency.  The next one is Monday, July 29 from 9 until 11 a.m. at the Salvation Army, at 529 E. Main St. in Batavia.

According to Nathaniel, this is a change from how Foodlink -- which provides food and nutrition education to 450 agencies in 10 counties throughout Western and Central New York -- has done things in the past.

"We received a grant from the Walmart Foundation in January," he said. "Because of that grant, we have been able to add direct service as a major component (of our mission)."

Prior to this, Foodlink had been working with Genesee County through AmeriCorps Vista, which does not allow workers to engage in direct service. For the past two years, they have focused on providing training to partner agencies (shelters, soup kitchens, etc).

A press release from Foodlink described the SNAP outreach clinics as "a bridge between the Department of Social Services and those applying -- all in an effort to make it easier for all parties involved."

If you can't make it to the outreach clinic, don't panic.

"If you're from Batavia, you can actually just give me a call," Nathaniel said. "I've pre-screened most people more recently over the phone, as a matter of fact."

For able-bodied people between the ages of 16 and 59 who work less than 30 hours a week, the requirements of SNAP E&T are similar to those for receiving unemployment. Applicants must work at least 20 hours per week, and they must be able to provide proof that they are applying for jobs.

At this time, according to Foodlink's press release, 900,000 New Yorkers are eligible for SNAP services and don't even know it.

"A lot of people I've pre-screened have already applied for SNAP benefits in the past," Nathaniel said. "The problem is that the income guidelines are constantly changing. I pre-screened someone in Batavia who applied seven years ago, and this person was certainly eligible this time around."

But changing income guidelines are not the only factor behind the above statistic. Nathaniel points out that many people suffer from "circumstantial poverty as opposed to generational poverty."

"A lot of times," he said, "(there are) people who worked their whole lives and suddenly something changed. They used to have a certain income, and they were used to a type of lifestyle that required a certain level of income. And suddenly, someone in the household got laid off; or suddenly, they've retired and their retirement plan wasn't what they thought it was."

People in this type of situation, according to Nathaniel, would never imagine themselves as being eligible for a government program. But, in fact, they could be eligible for SNAP benefits.

In addition, there are a few misconceptions about the stated criteria. 

"A major mistake people make is that they don't understand what a household size is for SNAP purposes," Nathaniel said. "Ordinarily, you think of a household as meaning just whoever is under your roof -- so five people, for example. But when you're applying for SNAP, what they look at is whether or not those five people share the grocery expenses and share food. So you can have as many as five different SNAP applications in one household. That's five different SNAP households under one roof."

The gross monthly income requirement for SNAP E&T is $1,211 for an able-bodied adult under 59 and without disabilities, plus $429 for each additional person in the household.

For someone over 59 or disabled, the requirement is $1,852 plus $660 for each additional person. Medical expenses (including out-of-pocket premiums), utilities, rent and mortgage are also taken into account for this population.

For more information, call Nathaniel at 328-3380, ext. 150.

Top graphic courtesy of Kim Montinarello

March 15, 2011 - 4:23pm
posted by Billie Owens in politics, steve hawley, social services.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley has announced that he is sponsoring legislation which would limit public assistance benefits to "true New York residents."

If passed, the bill would implement a 90-day residency requirement for social services applicants.

“One of Albany’s worst-kept secrets is the fact that people come to New York from all over the country to take advantage of our wire-thin requirements for public assistance,” Hawley said in a news release.

“This legislation seeks to limit these benefits to people who actually live, work and raise a family in New York state, rather than people in search of a cash grab for New York’s all-too-easily obtainable buck.”

Current New York laws hold no requirement regarding length of residency for benefit recipients. Applicants must only reside in New York and show intent to remain in the state for the foreseeable future, which is proven through documents such as a land lease or a driver’s license.

“This bill is about protecting the limited resources we have to serve true New Yorkers that depend on these funds,” Hawley said. “New York can barely sustain the level of assistance we are committed to within our own state borders. It is vital that we make sure every dollar spent is done so judiciously and effectively.”

December 14, 2009 - 1:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, social services.

A Batavia woman who admitted this morning to defrauding the Department of Social Services out of $9,278 has until Feb. 12 to pay it all back or face up to two years in prison.

Tami Mileham made a $2,000 payment this morning.

If she makes the remainder of her scheduled payments, she's looking at much less time in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of offering a false instrument in the second degree.

Mileham admitted to making false statements on food stamp applications about a person living in her residence at the time.

Her reduced sentence could either be 60 days in jail, or 60 days of jail time staggered over four months. Otherwise, each count carries a one-year prison term and those terms could be imposed consecutively rather than concurrently.

August 31, 2009 - 9:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, schools, social services.

The $200 back-to-school stipend for poorer families, which Gov. David Paterson announced last month, has probably been handled worse than any government program Eileen Kirkpatrick has seen.

She's the social services commissioner for Genesee County and I spoke with her after her presentation to the County's Ways and Means Committee this afternoon.

The state doesn't understand, Kirkpatrick said, the budgetary controls on counties and the need for more notice before such programs are implemented. Genesee County is fortunate compared to some other counties, in that its committee system works well, making it easier to get rapid approval of budget changes.

The state pushed out the funds to recipients without waiting for counties to get budgets properly amended, Kirkpatrick indicated.

"They didn't consult with the local commissioners," Kirkpatrick said. "They only consulted us after the fact."

Still, she's optimistic that most of the school-supply money handed out to local welfare and food-stamp recipients will be used as intended. She characterized most clients of the Department of Social Services as "working poor" who rely on government programs to help ends meet.

"Most of the people on food stamps are working and not just sitting around feeling lucky to collect benefits," Kirkpatrick said. "I'm very, very hopeful that any parents who get this money won't see it as some sort of windfall but will spend it wisely.

"Are there people who will see it as a windfall? Yes," Kirkpatrick added, "but I trust the good in people and believe most will spend it wisely."

The W&M Committee approved a resolution authorizing the budgetary change for the county, which will reflect $345,800 being received from the state for the school-supplies program, and $345,800 being spent.

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