Central New York, Community, Poverty

Youth Homeless Rates Rise in Syracuse

By Olivia Proia SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – A recent Point in Time survey, which counts the homeless living in Syracuse and is conducted by the Housing and Homeless Commission found that within just one year the amount of youth living without a home has almost tripled.

Bridges just a short distance from the Rescue Shelter house dozens of homeless individuals, especially when weather conditions are less harsh. (C) 2018 Olivia Proia

The number that is particularly troubling for Melissa Marrone, the Director of the Housing and Homeless Commission.

“The numbers just continue to go up for youth every year,” said Marrone. “I really think that we need to come together as a community to talk about why the numbers continue to go up, try to figure out how youth are moving through this system and whether or not we can be more helpful.”

Marrone is leading the coalition in a pursuit to reduce youth homeless rates in Syracuse. She plans to form a youth counsel and apply for additional grants to help decrease the amount of children becoming homeless.

Annie Berkin, 16, faced more problems than expected after leaving her home at a young age to support herself, entering into a life Marrone is striving to prevent.

“I actually got arrested because I had nowhere to stay, but the charges were dropped. I was sneaking into Vincent Apartments, into the basement, just to sleep because it was warmer there. I’ve had to sleep under bridges. It’s easier in the summer. I’m not going to lie, it’s just hell right now,” said Berkin.

The chilling Syracuse winters bring more challenges for those living outdoors. When temperatures drop, shelters see a spike in the amount of clients. Amber Vanberploeg, the Rescue Mission’s Division Director of Programs for Syracuse and Auburn, says December through March are when the shelters get the most crowded.

“The winter is the busiest time in our emergency shelters,” said Vanberploeg. ”

It’s not uncommon for us to be at capacity or close to it. We do have a day center so we can transition that into another dorm, but it’s not ideal obviously.”

This past week, two local homeless shelters were over capacitated. Concerned citizens can volunteer at their local shelter or donate goods. The Rescue Mission urges anyone to call 211 if there are concerns about someone who may be homeless or in need of help.

While the coalition and shelters work to figure out why more kids are without a place to call home, you can help by donating goods and volunteering at your local shelter. The Rescue Mission also asks that you call 211 if you see anyone you may believe is homeless or in need of help.