Ministry of Concern, DSS both committed to serving families in need
Thank you for the feature story on Jacki Mowers-Sciarabba, Ministry of Concern Client Advocate, that appeared in the Orleans Hub on October 11. We were all so pleased that Jacki’s work was recognized by the presentation of a Community Service award by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.
Unfortunately, there was some inaccurate and confusing information concerning services provided by the Orleans County Department of Social Services (DSS). Excerpts from the interview questions and answers are followed by the correct information.
Interview Question: People might think there is Section 8 and welfare that cover all of the needs?
Answer: There is, but there is a waiting period for everything. If you go in and apply for Medicaid, you have a 45-day wait.
Correction: There is a 30-day eligibility determination period for Medicaid.
Interview Question: Do you sometimes function as a connector to other agencies?
Answer: I never send someone out without having someone else for them to go to for the assistance that they need. We don’t help with rent or security deposits and that is an issue. Nobody in this county helps with security deposits. Community Action and DSS do first month’s rent, but there is limited funding.
Correction: The Orleans County Department of Social Services can provide landlords with a security deposit waiver agreement in which DSS will pay the landlord for any damages and recoup that money from the person receiving DSS benefits.
Interview Question: So people could need $500 or more for a security deposit?
Answer: Absolutely. The typical one is generally between $500 and $700. and then there is the matter of finding apartments. The landlords are often booked.
It is very difficult. They have to go through the application process. There is nothing quick when it comes to housing. So therefore how many nights can we pay for someone to stay at Dollinger’s? We used to have a rule for one night and you have to have a place to go by 11 o’clock the next morning. So if they needed one night’s lodging before they could move into their apartment, that was fine. But that is so often not the case. If the people are being evicted on a Thursday, they won’t get into DSS until Monday. What do they do for the weekend with their kids? What are they supposed to do?
I’m not one to encourage people to sleep in their cars. It’s not the heating season so DSS won’t help them with emergency housing. It has to be 40 degrees or lower for them to help with emergency housing. That displaces a lot of families.
Correction: DSS provides emergency shelter to families with children on the same day they apply. Single individuals are offered opportunities to rent through arrangements with local landlords. Once the temperature falls below 32 degrees, they may be placed in emergency housing until permanent housing is secured.
While we regret that these errors occurred it has afforded us the opportunity for a productive dialogue with the Department of Social Services. Both organizations are committed to working closely together, and with other organizations, to maximize limited resources and prevent any duplication of services.
Nyla J. Gaylord
Genesee Orleans Ministry of Concern, Inc.