Former homeless Albany man speaks out on what would help the issue

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As the weather warms up, people who have been taking refuge from the cold in shelters start to reappear on the streets of downtown Albany. This can pose a challenge to some businesses who don’t want that image near their establishment.

For those who spend time downtown, they know it’s a popular spot for people to sit with signs asking for money. Some locals say it’s aggravating to be asked for a cigarette or money every day.

According to Hunter, a man who was homeless on Albany’s streets for years, many of those asking are not homeless. He says he has some ideas on how we can truly help those living on the streets, and what will help break the cycle.

Hunter, who wishes not to be identified with his last name, was homeless for nearly four years. He says that for the homeless everyday there is one main goal: to find a place to sleep.

“The number one thing you have to do when you find yourself on the street, the first thing every morning is to find a place to sleep that’s safe.”

Hunter says he’s now on his way up. He’s living in HUD subsidized housing which in order to get you need to have an income.

“Currently the shelters do not refer people to vocational training. They do not refer people to career counseling, they do not even sit down with them and help them write a resume,” Hunter said.

All of those resources exist, and Hunter says he finally found a place to put his resume together using free computers at the Homeless and Travelers Aid Society, or HATAS, on Central Avenue.

“People don’t realize that all of the jobs and all of the affordable housing units are online,” Liz Hitt, Executive Director of HATAS tells News 10. “But how much access do homeless people have to the web very little.”

Vocational and career and counseling and training and those groups exist they are all over the city the problem is the persons in the shelter aren’t made aware of them so they would have to try to seek them out not even knowing that they exist.

And remember – what Hunter said the goal is everyday- not a resume

“The first thing you do when you wake up and you check your spot periodically during the day so your main goal is survival finding a meal a meal or two each day and finding a place to sleep not getting arrested,” Hunter said.

The downtown business improvement district says it’s working with the Albany Police Initiative on homeless, though Hunter says businesses can help by reaching out to the EOC and other places that hire to help connect the homeless,

“I built a website while I was on the streets,” Hunter says. “To help them find meals, health care, and vocational services.”

He’s also working with HATAS to reformat the shelter and referral system to bring in a vocational component. Businesses can help by reaching out to HATAS or the EOC or other places that hire.

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