Extra space at Albany County Jail to be used as homeless shelter | WNYT.com

Extra space at Albany County Jail to be used as homeless shelter

WNYT Staff
Updated: September 09, 2019 06:24 PM
Created: September 09, 2019 12:28 PM

With a 1,040-bed capability and only 40 percent occupancy, the Albany County Jail will now house homeless individuals.

In fact, as of Monday, the Albany County Jail as a standalone criminal detention facility no longer exists. It's now called the Albany County Corrections and Rehabilitation Services Center.

Former jail cells have now been transformed into space for the homeless.

There are no iron bars or a big door lock. Instead, there are bedspreads, fluffy pillows and a flat-screen TV.

This is the brainstorm of Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. As far as he knows, it is the first time that an operational jail has been decommissioned and transformed into a homeless shelter.

With initiatives like Raise the Age, bail reform, alternatives to incarceration, and lowering recidivism rates, the sheriff expects more vacant cells into the foreseeable future.

"They have their own little toilet, their own little sink. It's kind of like those tiny houses," explained Apple. "So they've got their own window, they've got their own door, they have their own access. So restore a little dignity, try to pick these folks back up when they need the most support or they end up on the other side of the law, right? So when they get out, if they have nowhere to go, we can house them here. If they get out and they do what I'm learning is called the shelter shuffle, bouncing from shelter to shelter and then ending up back in the county jail, nobody wins when you get back in jail."

"It's kind of what we call the one-stop center within the homeless community. One place where people can go," said Liz Hitt of the Homeless & Travelers Aid Society. "They can find housing, they can find treatment, they can find jobs. Employers will come here to this facility and meet with people."

The facility is expected to save Albany County taxpayers millions of dollars. Find out how by watching the video of Dan Levy's story.

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