As the only emergency shelter in Chemung County, Second Place East fills a crucial need. Yet the program’s directors say its greatest service is not in providing living space, but in helping to avert housing crises that lead to such a need.
Second Place East has been under the operation of Catholic Charities of Chemung County since 2003, when the longtime ministry — formerly overseen by the Economic Opportunity Program Inc. — relocated to 605 College Ave. in Elmira. The shelter and its offices occupy a large double house, with up to eight residents staying there at one time. Families and overflow are placed in a local motel.
Kathy Applin, residential services director for Catholic Charities of Chemung County, said job layoffs, high utility bills, unwise budgeting, substance abuse, and loss of rental space due to code violations are among the leading reasons people access Second Place East. Along with its shelter program, the agency offers financial assistance for rent or utility bills in less severe situations.
Applin remarked that homelessness can be avoided through better planning. “The whole prevention piece — we wish some people would come when they get their eviction notice, or when they’re going to get their eviction notice,” she said.
In an effort to prevent such housing crises, Catholic Charities staff collaborates with the Department of Social Services in providing education, job information and other resources. Depending on an individual’s needs, he or she may also be placed in another Catholic Charities program. Additionally, Second Place East now places a greater emphasis on working closely with referring agencies and landlords.
“I think it’s a tremendous benefit because it addresses more than one single issue. It’s really a holistic approach to the person and the family,” said Bridget Steed, executive director of Catholic Charities of Chemung County. “It’s a program that offers networks of support for self-sufficiency, addressing the issues that bring a person to homelessness.”
At Second Place East’s previous location in Jones Court, as many as 25 people were housed each day, with an average stay of at least 30 days. Since assuming control of Second Place East, Catholic Charities has cut back on the average number of patrons as well as their length of stay.
“We don’t have a capacity or luxury where you have a big-city, great big shelter,” Applin said of the current Second Place East facility. In addition, she and Steed said that long stretches in a shelter can reduce incentives for individuals to seek permanent housing.
Second Place East gets much of its financial support from federal, state and county resources. Yet Steed noted that “the funding streams have reduced their financial support, and this is at a time where the needs are increasing.” Current needs, she said, relate to rising utility costs as well as projected job layoffs for the Chemung County area.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Second Place East welcomes volunteer and financial contributions. For information, call 607/732-5954.