Homelessness is increasing in rural areas of the Finger Lakes, shows new report

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Homelessness has increased over the past decade in mostly rural counties in the Finger Lakes region, shows a report released Wednesday by Rochester-based health research organization Common Ground Health.

The report shows homelessness increased by 215% collectively across Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, and Yates counties between 2007 and 2021. It also increased by 46% collectively across Allegany, Chemung, Livingston, Schuyler, and Steuben counties.

Common Ground Health said homelessness is often viewed as an urban problem but rural communities also experience challenges like addiction and financial insecurity that cause people to become homeless.

“Homelessness in our region affects people of every race, gender, age and ethnicity in cities and in rural towns,” said Wade Norwood, CEO of Common Ground Health.

Common Ground Health says homelessness has increased because of high housing costs, mental health issues, substance abuse, and long-standing inequalities that lead to poverty. In the Finger Lakes region, seven out of the nine counties have zip codes where more than 20% of the population lives in poverty.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made finding shelter more difficult, the report says. Many shelters had to reduce their capacity and youth had a more difficult time connecting with school counselors for help with housing services.

Data for the report came from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. You can see the full report here: