Public Safety

A New Solution for the Homeless Population

Times Union recently published an article regarding how the Albany Sheriff’s office is going to help the homeless population. As jail populations have decreased, the Albany County Sheriff’s department is working on creating a new solution to help end homelessness. The program is set to be called the Sheriff’s Homeless Improvement Project and will use an empty tier in one of the jail’s buildings as a transitional housing and one-stop resource for those struggling to find a job, suffering from addiction or mental health issues and living on the streets. The programs for these struggling populations are centered around programs already being implemented in the jail that are offered to inmates. Sheriff Craig Apple states “whatever we can do to release somebody who can be healthy and productive back in the community, [is] our goal here.” They also are focusing on reducing recidivism rates and have already seen a drop as people are not coming back to jail. 

The jail population has been decreasing. In July, there were only 431 inmates , compared to the 1,000 it is able to house. This Albany jail is not the only one seeing a decrease in inmate populations, as the state’s total population in county jails fell over 13% from July 2018 to July 2019. Due to these new programs and the sheriff’s office working on rehabilitating inmates instead of employing a punitive approach, the jail is changing its name, to encompass its new mission; the Albany County Corrections and Rehabilitative Services Center. The jail is partnering with other centers including St. Peter’s Hospital, the Homeless and Traveler’s Aid Society, CDTA and other groups to create the program and build services. 

The homeless program is still in the works and Apple said they are trying to figure out their source of funding for food and housing. The facility will have rules similar to those of shelters and the staff will be civilians from nonprofits and the sheriff’s department. This saves the cost and limited resources of staffing correctional officers in the facility and gearing the workers towards what the population being housed in the facility will need. Apple is hopeful that this new facility and programs will help the homeless population get back on their feet and become functioning members of society again.