The Community Action Partnership of Madison County has received a $20,000 grant from the Central New York Community Foundation to bolster its help for families without a home or at risk of becoming homeless.
The grant is the first under a new initiative of the Syracuse-based two-county Community Foundation to tackle poverty in Madison County.
The foundation estimates that 11% of the population was living below the federal poverty line as of 2017, slightly lower than
Oneida and Onondaga counties but in a mostly rural place with fewer support organizations and its own challenges for poor
“We realized with some of our most recent work is that poverty’s really kind of the hinge that’s the largest barrier for people,” said Robyn Smith, director of strategic initiatives for the foundation.
“So we’ve decided to increase the dollars that are coming into this community, specifically around poverty related issues,” Smith added.
The grant will be devoted to case management for homeless or at-risk families. This can cover an array of emergency and longer-term needs, according to CAP: emergency short-term shelter in CAP’s own four-unit apartment building in Canastota, another rental apartment or a hotel or motel stay; help paying rent; and food. But it also includes longer-term help like life and workplace skills from budgeting to bill paying.
“We really try to figure out what got them into this position in the first place and then how do we stabilize them and how can we get them to work on longer-term goals,” said CAP Executive Director Antara Mitra.
Last year, CAP helped 250 individuals including 29 families in its transitional-housing program alone, Mitra said.
“So many of our families live on the margin,” she said.
“Any emergency — sickness, disability —can put a family in a hole that is rally hard to dig out of,” Mitra added.
The initiative recognizes that poverty can look different in a rural place like Madison County than in communities with more people and urban centers.
There’s no homeless shelter in the county, for example.
Isolation presents problems of mental health and transportation, Smith said, noting some communities do not have their own grocery stores, and major employers are dispersed — a problem for people who can’t afford to buy and maintain a reliable car. Onondaga and Oneida counties certainly have the same issues but there is more help, too.
“There’s homeless shelters, there’s non-profits all over the place that are helping those individuals. And rural poverty looks a little bit different than urban poverty,” Smith said.
Housing is also spread out, Mitra noted. Madison County’s supply of units available under federally subsidized privately owned rental housing, referred to as Section 8, is in short supply and comes with a very long waiting list.
“Oneida County is very housing rich compared to us,” she said. “I’m sure they still have needs but they have multiple shelters. They have a number of different transitional housing programs. This is the only transitional housing program in the county right now.”