Oneonta Warming Station roof collapsed

·3 min read

Jul. 29—A new home is needed for a winter warming station for homeless people in Oneonta, after the roof of the current shelter collapsed.

Patricia Leonard, executive director of the Family Service Association said the warming station helps the homeless or those in need of housing and shelter during nights categorized as "Code Blue," when the temperature falls below 32 degrees, but the building at 189 Chestnut Street is no longer serviceable.

"Last year was our first full functioning year at the warming station, and in that one year we've had 140 nights categorized as Code Blue nights," Leonard said. The warming station also saw 108 people throughout the last year, including families and children ranging from 17 years old to 73.

The warming station is able to house ten cots with dividers and includes an isolation space. "Folks usually come on their own or people are referred by the churches, agencies, hospitals, the police or the fire department," Leonard said.

"We are also equipped with food, drinks, coffee, hot chocolate, blankets and pillows. We run from 5 p.m. and ask people to leave around 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.", she said.

Most of those being housed at the warming station work regular jobs in the community and a number of the young adults ranging from 19-20 years old are usually kicked out of their homes or can't handle drug abuse from their parents, Leonard said. "We once had to house a member of the transgender community because their parents didn't approve of them and kicked them out," she said.

The warming station also offers assistance to those who have their heating or power turned off during the winter and to clients who just need a warm place to sleep. "Some people access the warming station for two to three nights just to get their feet on the ground so they can find regular housing," Leonard said.

The Family Service Association was looking to rent 189 Chestnut as a warming station for the 2022-2023 season, but during the process of agreeing to rent the building, the roof collapsed. "We had problems with the roof previously and we were working on getting it repaired. It could have been a matter of weather, design or construction," Leonard said.

Without the warming station, people would have to be put in motels during Code Blue days and to reserve rooms would cost more for the county and for taxpayers.

Those who choose not to go to a hotel are left on the streets, in parking lots or unlocked cars.

"It's a safety precaution more than anything," Leonard said.

In the process of searching for a new location, The Family Service Association also has a wish-list for a new warming station. "For our new location, we're ideally looking for a space large enough to host more than ten cots, somewhere with a kitchen area, space for chairs and tables, a lounge area, two bathrooms with showers, access to a washer and dryer, parking, one floor for accessibility and somewhere particularly not on Main Street but along a bus route," Leonard said.

The warming station also works with Catholic Charities of Delaware and Otsego Counties as well as the Main Street Baptist Church. "Catholic Charities is our first point of contact and we have a committee that works closely with them. It's really a community initiative. We're able to pay for rent due to reimbursements from the state," Leonard said.

The warming station is considered a sanctuary for many and is always organized, staffed and cleaned, Leonard said. There are more than 20 employees working with the warming station.

Alexis Ochi, staff writer, can be reached at aochi@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213.