Research and planning began toward the goal of establishing a transitional housing center in our community, to serve short-term, needs of persons without adequate, stable shelter and support. Shelters in Malone, Vergennes and Burlington, VT were visited. Meetings have been held with shelter directors, county funding administrators and social workers. In May 2012 the Ecumenical Council joined with North Country Behavioral Health Network, which is the umbrella agency establishing a Continuum of Care program for Essex and Franklin counties. That organization, now known as Franklin Essex Housing Coalition, supports our plans for Samaritan House.
It is often thought that homeless persons are found on doorsteps and urban streets, but are not present in rural areas. The rate of homeless and “undersheltered” persons in our community is actually higher (per capita) than in large cities. Our homeless share couches in crowded apartments, or live in garages or abandoned buildings. They may move from one friend or relative to another until they run out of options. They may be found in cars, campers, sheds, or hunting camps. There is no survey method which accurately accounts for the number of homeless in rural areas since statistics are usually drawn from those who have sought and received social services, which are often rare in areas with low population rates.
The goal of the Ecumenical Council is to introduce our efforts and plans to the community at large, to educate our citizens to the problem of homelessness and potential solution with a transitional housing center. We hope to house persons for a limited time and provide referral to community resources which lead to self-sufficiency and stability, job training and a return to a normal and productive life.
As a next step for Samaritan House, the Ecumenical Council is already making plans. As with other ministries started by the Council in past years, our plan is for Samaritan House to form an independent 501-c-3 tax exempt organization to support the ministry into the future. Concurrent with that, it is the Council's plan to raise the necessary funds to purchase the Samaritan House property from the current owner in order to secure the facility for the long term future.
The following is our project description for how Samaritan House will operate in Saranac Lake serving residents from Franklin and Essex Counties: