Hwei-Ling Greeney, director of Amherst Community Connections, went before the Amherst Community Preservation Act Committee last night to defend her proposal to house five "chronic homeless individuals" in apartments for three years at $83,819 per year, or a total request of $251,457.
A recent headcount concluded Amherst has 19 chronically homeless individuals within our town borders. And on most days you can see them in the downtown panhandling, or simply hanging around with nothing to do.
Hwei-Ling Greeney appears before Community Preservation Act Committee
Yes that $251,457 works out to $16,763 annually per person, but these days the average welfare recipient in Massachusetts cost taxpayers almost three times that.
And Ms. Greeney pointed out that in 2012 Amherst police had 775 calls related to the homeless for a budget cost of $58,000.
And AFD often has to transport overly intoxicated (or drug related) homeless individuals from the downtown to Cooley Dickinson Hospital, with a high likelihood those $1,000 trips go unpaid.
Community Connections asking price includes not just the high cost of a one bedroom apartment in Amherst, but an additional case worker who will provide individuals with metal health support services which will hopefully cut down on their involvement with APD and AFD.
The CPA Committee was not overly receptive to the request due to its high cost, untried paradigm and the concern it may not be restricted to down on their luck individuals with some solid connection to the town.
CPA Chair Mary Streeter acknowledged the great need but suggested Ms. Greeney go back to the proposed landlords and see if she can negotiate a lower rent.
The Committee currently has $1,778,747 available but they have 14 proposals before them that add up to more than that.
In March the Committee will make their final decision over which projects to recommend to Town Meeting. And Town Meeting almost always takes their advice.