Jerri Jordan, an occupant of Opportunity House, said she wishes the community knew that homeless people are not all “slackers.”
Jordan, 56, is one of 18 residents at the Oneonta homeless shelter, run by Opportunities for Otsego. Jordan said she has been at the house for a month and a half and is busy looking for jobs in the Bassett Healthcare Network in her background, medical billing. She said she already has an apartment lined up for when she gets a job.
Daniel Maskin, chief executive officer of Opportunities for Otsego, said more than 233 homeless adults and children were provided shelter through OFO programs from October 2012 to September 2013. However, Maskin said, there are even more homeless individuals and families in Otsego County who do not seek help through these programs.
Tony Longo, a retired emergency housing associate for Oneonta’s Opportunity House, said the problem of homelessness in Otsego County is fluid, constantly shifting and changing. Longo said it is difficult to nail down how many homeless people are in the county because, he said, they are somewhat “invisible.”
Longo said many people are unaware of the scope of homelessness in the area and that many people are content with their ignorance.
“People don’t want to know about it,” Longo said. “America is a generous nation, and so people want to just donate money and say ‘here ... fix it.’”
In his eight years working the night shift and weekends at the homeless shelter, Longo said, he has gotten to know many different homeless individuals, who generally fall into one of two categories.
“These are the two types of people that come in,” Longo said. “There’s the welfare queen who’s on drugs and has five kids who’ve all been taken away from her. Some people are good at working the system … we call them ‘chronics.’ Then, there’s the mother of five kids whose husband is in prison. She has a job and does her best to take care of her kids emotionally and physically, but she’s just run into a hard time.”