News10NBC Investigates: Help for homeless under Carter Street bridge

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — On Thursday, News10NBC brought you the story of Pete Abbott. He’s a homeless man who, like a handful of others, lives under the Carter Street bridge in Rochester. That bridge has been a hotspot for the homeless in our area for years. We’ve heard from many folks wondering what’s being done to help Abbott and the others.

"We’re all people just like you and may we all have our own issues and struggles and all of us aren’t out here just because were using drugs or whatever the case may be a lot of us just don’t have nobody else out there or our situation from past bad decisions we made and led us to this," Abbott told News10NBC.

Neighbors in the area say the panhandling has been aggressive and mattresses, bikes, furniture and drug needles that have been accumulating over the last several months is making its way down the bridge abutment. The New York State Department of Transportation cleans it out a few times a year but within weeks, it’s cluttered up again.

A group called Person Centered Housing Options (PCHO) is trying to break that cycle.

"When you treat them with respect and dignity and you treat them like the human beings they are, they usually gravitate toward the work that we do," said Nicholas J. Coulter, the founder of PCHO.

PCHO employees build relationships with the homeless by offering a listening ear, care packages and food. Once a homeless person is ready, they help them get identification and connect them to housing and medical care. Three-hundred people are currently in PCHO housing and hundreds more have been placed in apartments across the community. But, the COVID-19 pandemic has made finding temporary shelters and permanent housing more difficult.

Shelters have limited space because of precautions and apartments are not becoming available because no one is moving out of them.

"Right now there’s a really really low vacancy rate in our community and on average it’s taking us about 25 to 60 days to find an apartment due to COVID, it’s a big challenge," Coulter said.

But PCHO knows Abbott and they’re trying to help.

"Pete has a care manager, an outreach worker that he’s working closely with and our team is possibly looking at some funds where we can put them up in a hotel while we continue to find an apartment for him," Coulter explained.

It’s a huge step, hopefully in a new direction.

"I was on the Suboxone program but I don’t feel comfortable being on the program and leaving my medication up here unattended and stuff I’ve had stuff stolen from me, every day something comes up missing right now so once I get into an apartment and have a place to call my own and can lock my stuff up I’m going to address my issues that you know keep me out here you know," Abbott explained.

To learn more about Person Centered Housing Options or to donate or volunteer, click here.