Homeless remain in Civic Center garage

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — How long can the homeless people living in the Civic Center garage stay?

There was panic Friday morning when advocates thought the county was about to do a clear-out. Turns out, that did not happen but Monroe County Executive Adam Bello says a concrete slab in a parking garage with no access to bathrooms is not a safe or humane place to sleep.

After a number of incidents and attacks in the garage over the summer, the county enlisted the help of a group called Person Centered Housing Options (PCHO) to work with the homeless to try and find them permanent living situations. PCHO has been able to successfully relocate about two-dozen people but about a dozen remain.

On Friday morning PCHO outreach workers were at the garage.

“We heard that the people that are staying in the garage are going to be asked to leave today [Friday] permanently so we wanted to make sure we came down to prepare them,” outreach coordinator Lisa Kuhmann told News10NBC.

As the day wore on, advocates from other homelessness groups arrived too.

“Nobody wants to be sleeping outside, nobody wants to be going through this… as someone who has been homeless and struggled with substance abuse and mental health issues, we don’t want that but we get so used to the people looking at us like we’re nobody,” says Stephanie Forrester of Recovery All Ways.

Incoming Rochester City Council Member Kim Smith also came to the garage.

“If people are refusing to be permanently housed, I guarantee you there is another issue going on and so then Rochester is supposed to be rich in resources, what’s the barrier for you entering into permanent housing is it mental health? Then, let’s get some mental health folks out here,” she said.

Monroe County says it has been doing just that for months. MonroeCounty Executive Adam Bello tweeted Friday saying, “Social media reports claiming that Monroe County is ‘displacing’ homeless individuals from the Civic Center garage today are false. Since the spring, our outreach teams have worked intensively and daily with those who choose to shelter in the garage. We strive to provide them with safe and humane places to sleep at night, as well as other support and resources they need. A cold concrete slab in a parking garage with no access to restroom facilities is not a safe or humane place to sleep. That is not how we want anyone in our community to live — especially with winter approaching. I have initiated an early activation of the cold weather Code Blue protocol, which expands safe housing options for homeless individuals. The parking garage is not suitable living quarters. Shelter beds are available. Hotel rooms are available. Apartments are available. Rooming houses are available. Our teams have so far assisted nearly two dozen individuals choose to transition into appropriate housing. Outreach efforts are ongoing. A handful of individuals continue to seek shelter in the parking garage. All have repeatedly been offered and refused appropriate housing. We are working with advocates and support organizations on a long-term solution to this complex challenge.”