PLATTSBURGH - Homelessness is an increasing epidemic in this area, contrary to popular belief, says Maureen E. Bradish.
Bradish would know, serving as director of Family Promise of Clinton County, a nonprofit organization which locates housing for families who have become homeless. The organization has seen "a significant increase" in the number of families it serves, she said, based off referrals from the local Department of Social Services.
"We're getting a lot more families referred," said Bradish, who noted 28 families were assisted last year. "But, we're also seeing people are staying in our program for a longer period of time. I used to be able to find housing for people in two to three weeks and now it's well over a month before we can find them something."
The biggest challenge, said Bradish, is to not only find housing, but to find "safe, affordable housing."
"We don't want to put families in places where there are known pedophiles or in other conditions that aren't safe for children to be living," said Bradish. "And, sometimes, that can be a problem in our area."
The organization has limited funding, which comes mainly through the United Way of Clinton and Essex Counties and through member items secured through the state legislature. However, Bradish is afraid funding won't be enough to provide enough services to those who need them.
"We don't want people on the streets, especially families," she said. "We want to be able to continue to do pretty much anything we can to help them back on their feet."
What Bradish hopes will help the mission of Family Promise - which has been in existence locally for the past eight years - is increasing awareness about homelessness.
"I still hear people say they've never heard of our program or they didn't know homelessness was a problem in our area. But, it's a problem everywhere," said Bradish. "For some people, because they don't see it, they think it's not a problem. It is."