Local organization brings six new homeless shelters to Rochester

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Six new homeless shelters will soon be opening in Rochester thanks to a local organization.

REACH Advocacy is making it all happen. It’s a group founded by regular citizens, churches and others looking to help the homeless.

These new shelters come at a time when city officials have started clearing out encampments and fencing them off.

“I had a very severe opioid addiction, doing a lot of drugs,” Aaron Taylor said. “I wanted to end my whole life, but if it wasn’t for Andy, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Aaron Taylor has been clean for about five months. He said if it wasn’t for REACH Advocacy chair Andy Carey, he would probably still be on the street.

He said Andy stepped in to help him at a very crucial time in his life.

“For me personally it was because a lot of the folks I was running into over the years as a social worker all over the community were just symbolic of a lot of broken systems,” Carey said. “I think if we start with the most marginalized people we can start to figure out how to fix our bigger systems and make things better for people.”

Carey said they decided to start an initiative called Project Haven in which they spruce up new houses every year and turn them into low-barrier shelters for people who have mental health illnesses and addictions.

“Here when you get into your own room, you feel a little more secure and you start to think that ‘Oh, maybe housing isn’t a bad idea’ or treatment and those types of things,” Carey said.

They partner with private landlords to make it all happen.

“We’re hoping that it’s going to start a new trend on how people are housed and how they can be taken care of in different ways and maybe show the community that everybody has a spot to be in and they’re welcome,” said real estate property owner Joe Polizzi.

Polizzi said it’s not just about giving them a place to stay, but the initiative goes far beyond that.

“Our goal is to not only house people, but it’s to eventually get them into permanent housing where maybe we could direct them to a job,” Polizzi said. “Or we could train them to do some certain tasks and maybe get them to be a bigger part of the community and add to the community.”

All six houses will be open by the end of December. People who stay will be provided every day with health care and counseling.

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