The ninth annual Albany Community Summit on Homelessness was held Wednesday morning at City Hall and a major focus was how to make the community aware of resources designed to help those in need.
“There are abundant services out there, believe me,” said Paul Barnes, chairman of the board of directors for HEART (Homeless Enrichment and Rehabilitation Team), an Albany organization that supports the homeless.
Barnes detailed the results of a panhandling survey done near Labor Day with 20 people.
People surveyed said that among their most pressing needs were housing, medical and dental care and getting an identification card.
They also needed help with food, laundry, and getting appropriate clothing for job interviews.
“For every one of these individuals, there are resources together that have already been established,” Barnes said.
It’s just that homeless people — and sometimes even service agencies — don’t know about all the resources, he added.
There are plenty of meals available at shelters and soup kitchens, Helping Hands offers laundry facilities, and medical care is available, said panelists at the meeting.
About 70 people attended the summit, and they brainstormed about how to get the word out, such as putting more fliers out with information.
Barnes said there were an estimated 200 people in Albany who were living in homeless shelters, abandoned buildings, their cars or outdoors in camps and parks.
Of the 20 survey takers, 13 were male and seven were female, and the average age was about 40.
Dan Kress, director of Helping Hands, said those figures were similar to those at his Albany homeless shelter.
Dar Merrill, who helps manage the 211 information system, said that two-thirds of people who called seeking help for homeless-related issues were women, however.
A perceived increase in panhandling activity led to the survey.
“Half the people who we were talking to were intoxicated or well on their way to getting there,” Barnes said.
Not surprisingly, 13 of the 20 responders said they had a history of drug or alcohol use, and Barnes said that figure could be higher, as a few people weren’t exactly honest in their response to that particular question.
Survey takers said they could make anywhere from $10 to $180 per day panhandling, and they used it for food, alcohol, clothing and cigarettes.
Two of the 20 people surveyed had their own residence, and another man was living in a trailer.
Barnes said that man said he was panhandling to get new tires for his car so he could drive to his job.