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Tompkins County considers funding private developer’s support specialist for homeless

  • / Updated:
  • Staff Report 

Tompkins County is contemplating a new approach to support recently homeless individuals by funding a “move-in specialist” position, despite initial plans to partner with a local nonprofit. The proposal, now focused on supporting residents in Vecino Group’s properties, including Ithaca Arthaus and the soon-to-open Ithaca Asteri, comes after a failed search for a nonprofit overseer. The Vecino Group, a Missouri-based developer known for its affordable housing projects, might receive nearly $95,000 from county funds to employ a specialist aiming to ease the transition for the formerly homeless into permanent housing.

The specialist’s role, initially intended to serve a broader community, is now tailored to Vecino’s tenants, aiming to provide guidance on tenant rights, applying for housing vouchers, and using communal facilities. This shift arose from the inability to find a suitable nonprofit partner, prompting the county’s consideration of a private developer for the role. Despite the narrowed focus, the proposal received mixed reactions from county legislators, with some expressing concerns over allocating public funds to benefit residents of a single developer’s properties.

This initiative, stemming from a recognized need in the county’s 2022 homelessness assessment, seeks to address the unique challenges faced by the formerly homeless in adapting to stable living environments. Vecino’s involvement, bolstered by a partnership with Tompkins Community Action for case management, marks a significant, albeit controversial, step towards addressing homelessness and housing instability in Tompkins County amidst ongoing debates over the best use of public resources in private-sector partnerships.