Homelessness on the rise in Rochester region

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — If you feel like you’ve seen more people sleeping under bridges and begging for money, you’re right. Our community is experiencing a surge in homelessness and the agencies they try to help them, are running thin on resources.

"We are finding encampments in places we never have, we are finding people sleeping in their cars in Fairport and Webster and Irondequoit places that have never really had homelessness," explained Nick Coulter, the CEO of Person Centered Housing Options, “it’s pretty alarming and it’s something we need to address as a community.”

Person Centered Housing Options (PCHO) is the organization that people, police agencies and municipalities call when they’re trying to help men and women who they find living on the streets. This year, PCHO says it’s seen a 50% increase in the number of calls for assistance and a 20% increase in the number of people they’ve served, “there are new people out there, there’s younger people out there and there’s a lot more heroin associated with that,” Coulter explained.

PCHO workers initially provide supplies and food to the homeless in hopes of building trust in order to eventually provide more long-term help, “our team has to go out and find those folks, engage them, begin a relationship with them… talk about what they want and move on to housing so, that takes a lot of time,” Coulter said.

The pandemic has made finding housing for the homeless more challenging but PCHO caseworkers have placed hundreds of people including many who were living under the Carter Street Bridge and inside the Civic Center parking garage.

“Housing is the number one goal, if we can get somebody off the street and get a roof over their head… they’re more likely to get a job, they’re more likely to go back to school, they’re more likely to take care of their drug and alcohol problems,” Coulter explained.

PCHO is used to operating on thin margins but with the surge in demand for help, the last thing they want to do is turn people away. For more information on PCHO’s Virtual Gala and Auction, click here.