- Surprise Photography 2019
- Hudson River Housing's Project Porchlight Drop-In Center in Poughkeepsie
November is Homelessness Awareness Month in part, because it’s cold. On top of the day-to-day hardships people facing housing insecurity deal with, this time of year also means spending more time enduring frigid temperatures both day and night.
Raising awareness of the month’s significance is one way that Poughkeepsie-based Hudson River Housing advocates for visibility around the affordable housing crisis in Dutchess County, which Executive Director Christa Hines says has worsened in the last five years. “The need we see out there is significant and it’s increasing,” she says.
Since 1982, Hudson River Housing has worked to solve the affordable housing crisis in Dutchess County and the broader Hudson Valley through its services for those experiencing homelessness, including emergency overnight housing at their Poughkeepsie shelter and affordable rental housing through a variety of projects, including their own real estate developments that have created of over 1,200 units of housing.
With the Hudson Valley’s continually rising property values, it’s not just people in urban areas like Poughkeepsie who don’t have access to affordable housing. “We track who utilizes our shelter services and we’re seeing a lot of people who are coming from outside Poughkeepsie because it’s the only place for them to go to get those services,” Hines says.
According to Hines, the pandemic has only exacerbated the issue, but it has also started to wake people up to just how little affordable housing is currently available in the region.
This awareness and advocacy among the community is key. “When people hear the phrase ‘affordable housing’ they automatically assume the worst. There are so many stigmas around affordable housing that need to be broken down,” she says. Lack of housing options affects everyone from individuals living paycheck to paycheck to those who have a family relationship that suddenly deteriorates. “Anyone can experience homelessness,” says Hines.
On November 6th Hudson River Housing’s 14th annual Wind Chill Event, which will be held in-person and virtually, will give people an opportunity to deepen their understanding of homelessness. There will be a screening of a forthcoming documentary from filmmaker Lowell Handler about homelessness in Poughkeepsie and Hudson Valley Performing Arts Lab will be sharing stories from those who have been homeless.
In addition to attending the event, Hines encourages people in the community to look for volunteering opportunities like the organization’s Street Outreach Team, which operates out of the organization's "Project Porchlight" drop-in center in Poughkeepsie. The team walks through the streets of Poughkeepsie weekly, providing referrals, resources, support, and access to shelter for at-risk people experiencing homelessness who might not be able to seek those resources on their own.
Preventing and ending homelessness also means addressing root causes such as poverty and inequity, and strengthening our social systems so that support is there during difficult times. Making sure everyone has the opportunity to have a safe, stable place to live helps us create a stronger, more productive community where everyone can contribute—and we all benefit.