Local shelters seek services for women as numbers continue to grow

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Homelessness has been a problem the United States has been battling for decades at different times for different reasons. But for women, the concern is on the rise.

NEWS10 ABC spent hours sifting through public surveys and head counts and found that the gap between homeless men and women has nearly been cut in half since 2006. It shrank from from 36.6 percent in 2006 to 20.3 percent in 2015.

On a local level, shelters say those national numbers are something they’re adjusting to every day.

Terry Geisel says it’s as if she’s been shaken awake from her American dream. Her house, her family, her life as she knew it, is gone.

“We had a home,” she said. “We’ve lost our home. We’ve lost everything.”

shelters of saratoga

She says her husband got so sick, he could no longer work. And with medical bills stacking up, keeping up became difficult.

“If somebody told you ten years ago that you would be living at a homeless shelter would you believe them?” NEWS10 reporter Noel McLaren asked her.

“No, I wouldn’t,” she responded. “I would think that they were crazy.”

Geisel’s part of a sadly growing statistic in the Capital Region: homeless women.

Based on a point in time head count conducted by local shelters last year, Albany County counted 169 homeless women. Schenectady County counted 151. Rensselaer County counted 93, and Saratoga, Warren, Washington and Hamilton Counties combined came to 108.

That leaves a total of 521 homeless women in the area and points just north.

homeless women capital region

“It’s pretty high,” Executive Director of Shelters of Saratoga Michael Finocchi said.

Finocchi says the problem began in 2008. When the economic bubble burst, so did family bubbles.

“A lot of women who are homeless, I would have to guess, that the majority fall under the domestic violence realm,” he said.

And those women were calculated in the statistics.

“That’s high for anywhere that you’re talking about a homeless woman or a homeless woman with children,” Finocchi said.

Like Geisel, they’re mothers and grandmothers. Some of them are working. They’re younger and older, and many of them aren’t staying in shelters at all. They’re resorting to couch hopping, motels, or cars. Some of them, you could walk right by them and never even know they’re without a home.

The problem?

“Personally I don’t think there are enough services for that population,” Finnochi said.

Finnochi gave NEWS10 a tour of his shelter’s supply closet. He says people are generous with giving.

shelters of saratoga toiletries

“I mean look at toothpaste, more toothpaste, more deodorant, floor to ceiling items for everything else, but when it comes to female products, it’s limited,” he said.

But with a changing population showing up at local shelters, Finocchi says the type of specialized aid needs to change, too.

In a shelter meant to house 35, only six beds are currently dedicated to women at Shelters of Saratoga. Finocchi’s hope is to get more funding so he can one day expand and help more women like Geisel get back on their feet and get their families back on track.

“It’s frustrating,” Geisel said. “It’s very hard, but I know one day we will be back together. One day.”

Plans for an expansion at Shelters of Saratoga for more female beds were already drawn up five years ago; however, the shelter is still fighting for federal dollars to make them a reality.

And since NEWS10 filmed this story, case managers at Shelters of Saratoga say just last week, they were forced to turn away several women since all of their female beds are full.

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