Battling Homelessness in New York

Volunteers of America Upstate New York focuses on another factor of homelessness: incarceration. VOA has been around for 125 years and has two facilities in Rochester and Binghamton that help parolees find transitional housing programs.

Mike Dedee, former director of the Reentry Residential Center and current regional vice president of housing services, said there are many struggles for recently incarcerated individuals.

“Some of the difficulties are the barriers that we might find in trying to get them into stable housing or employment,” Dedee said, “ because of either discrimination or legal restrictions.”

There are also social restrictions, however. One of the main goals of VOA’s transitional housing is to prevent people from falling back into their previous life and committing more crimes by securing stable housing for them and assisting them with employment. Dedee said around 60 percent of recently incarcerated people commit another crime within three years after release.

Volunteers of America also has 34 other programs; among those are pre-K programs and child care up to age 12, a family shelter in Rochester and supportive housing for more than 120 residents.

“Our goal is to not just interrupt homelessness,” Dedee said, “but to end homelessness.”

Although some program approaches have been altered because of Covid-19 precautions, Volunteers of America has not stopped providing assistance to those in need. The team installed wireless networks in four supportive housing facilities and distributed over 120 tablets to residents to provide remote case management services.

“We’ve been open since the beginning” of the pandemic, said Lynn Sullivan, CEO and president of VOA. “We’ve never closed… We went virtual in many of the early days, but we never stopped serving the community or employing our staff.”

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