COURT STREET PLACE OPENED MARCH 1, 2013, AND ITS ROOMS QUICKLY FILLED UP WITH HOMELESS MEN TRANSITIONING OFF THE STREETS AND INTO A LIFE OF SELF-SUFFICIENCY.
From the outside, Court Street Place looks like any other welcoming home in Ithaca. The only tip off? The bright sign attached to the house, marking it “Rescue Mission: Court Street Place.” Barry Segal, founder of the house, spends numerous hours at the house and with the men.
“I act with them as a friend, and that’s the way I interact with everybody. They’re not like clients, they’re my friends; they’re people in my life,” Segal said.
Segal previously had men staying with him in his own home. When he was at a maximum of 9 or 10, Segal would set up tents in his yard. But he knew that this was only a temporary fix, and he couldn’t continue to house them forever.
One day he stumbled upon a solution. “This was an abandoned American Red Cross emergency shelter, and the thing about it was, it was all set up to house homeless people. It had been abandoned for two years,” Segal said. “I was here five minutes and we were signing papers.”
Segal, who paid for the house and its renovations out of pocket, didn’t know exactly how he was going to make the house work. People asked him, “well, what are you going to do?” He would reply, “well, I don’t know. I’ll figure it out when I get there.”
Thankfully, he didn’t have to worry for very long; Rescue Mission, an organization based in Syracuse, N.Y., asked Segal to partner with them. They now both work with the men in the house. Segal and Rescue Mission established the house to support homeless men coming off the streets to live a life of sobriety and independence.
A Little Bit About the House
The house holds up to 10 men and houses them until they are able to transition into a self-sufficient lifestyle. Michael Koplinka-Loehr, Program Manager of Court Street Place, said that at first they expected men to stay at the house for six months to two years, but now they’ve found that the turnover is closer to three or four months.
“What we call our program model is ‘housing first’: provide housing, provide stability, then additional services to makes sure their life is stable,” Koplinka-Loehr said.
After being recommended for the house by varying agencies, the men who enter the program sign an occupancy agreement that clarifies the rules of the house; such as, a midnight curfew, no overnight guests and sobriety. In addition, the men are required to pay a $360 a month rent, which helps pave the way toward self-sufficiency and a future of independence.
According to Koplinka-Loehr, the program works with the men to find them work, and in exchange the men get free transportation, laundry, utilities, food, phones, Internet, cable, and are even given free clothes and household items from the Thrifty Shopper.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Ithaca has a 45.5 percent poverty rate, in comparison with the 14.9 percent average for all of New York State. Programs like Court Street Place help those in desperate need, but they can only do so much. At any given time, the house has a waiting list of 10 to 20 men who are in need of support.