Grand opening held for volunteer organization
GLOVERSVILLE — CAPTAIN Community Human Services on Wednesday held the grand opening of a full-time office located inside the First Congregational United Church of Christ dedicated to addressing homelessness in Fulton and Montgomery counties.
The 42 year-old non-profit organization that started as a grassroots movement in Saratoga County to help troubled teens has expanded over the years to become a volunteer driven agency focusing on the needs of youth, individuals and families throughout the region.
“Over the years we’ve grown and dedicated our time, effort and resources to addressing the core social issues of hunger, homelessness and economic crisis. We provide the appropriate services to empower and support children, youth, individuals and families and seniors from low income, disadvantaged communities to lift them up and build greater futures,” said CAPTAIN CHS Associate Executive Director Andy Gilpin.
In addition to operating several support service locations in Clifton Park and Glenville, CAPTAIN CHS operates a runaway and homeless youth shelter in Malta where Gilpin said staff members began seeing more kids ages 13 to 17 from Fulton and Montgomery counties several years ago.
“Youth homelessness for those of you who don’t know, it’s really one of those hidden issues, it really is something that is not very visible,” Gilpin said. “It’s something that we know youth are struggling with, we want to raise that awareness within the communities we serve.”
The organization recognized that the two counties did not have a shelter or program to assist homeless and runaway youths and launched a street outreach program five years ago to locate and provide resources and assistance to kids and families in need. To further these efforts CAPTAIN CHS opened a drop-in center at the First Congregational United Church of Christ located at 31 E. Fulton St. this year with open hours on Tuesdays.
“Over those five years with street outreach in Fulton and Montgomery counties we’ve had over 3,700 face to face contacts with youth, we’ve been providing hundreds of hours of case management, over 150 different youths have come to our drop-in center here on Tuesdays,” Gilpin said. “Last year alone we helped 27 youth safely exit the streets to stable housing and start their journey back to improved well-being.”
CAPTAIN CHS officially expanded services in Fulton and Montgomery counties again on Wednesday announcing that three staff members would be working five days a week to address the issue of homelessness through an $815,000 funding award from the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance through the Solutions to End Homelessness Program to be paid out over the next five years.
According to Gilpin, two staff members will focus on street outreach seeking to locate and connect with runaway and homeless youth ages 13 to 24 helping them work through the issues that led to their homeless situation to safely exit the streets either by accessing an age appropriate shelter or through other means with the ultimate goal of securing stable housing.
A part-time housing case manager will work with youths, individuals and families who are homeless to get them rapidly rehoused in permanent housing.
“With the grand opening of the offices we’re going to make sure that we have staff here that can help you be there for them. We’re going to grow the drop-in center and we’re going to continue to tackle this issue,” Gilpin said.
Gilpin thanked those in attendance for the official grand opening of the full-time office and those who supported the expansion of CAPTAIN CHS’ services in the two counties.
“Without you we wouldn’t be able to do this valuable work,” Gilpin said.
Additionally, Gilpin thanked Pastor Ralph English and members of the First Congregational United Church of Christ who volunteer their time to provide meals and interact with youths at the drop-in center, a pair of private donors whose contribution funded the installation of a shower, washer and dryer and other renovations at the church for the drop-in center and the 100 Women Who Care of the Adirondack Foothills who provided an $18,300 donation to the organization to purchase a van to support street outreach initiatives across the two counties.
“There’s a lot of work to be done yet,” Gilpin said. “We know now with a five day presence there’s going to be more and more that we’re going to discover and find and help.”
In addition to a broad swath of community supporters, CAPTAIN CHS staff, members of the First Congregational United Church of Christ and officials with the Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce, Wednesday’s grand opening was attended by state OTDA Commissioner Michael Hein, state Assemblymen Angelo Santabarbara and Robert Smullen, Fulton County Department of Social Services Commissioner Anne Solar, Montgomery County DSS Commissioner Michael McMahon, Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa, Gloversville Mayor Vincent DeSantis and representatives from the offices of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and state Sen. James Tedisco.