WATERLOO — It took longer than anticipated, but the first shelter in Seneca County for homeless women is open and accepting applications.

Officials at Community Action Programs Cayuga/Seneca — or CAP — have announced that a nine-bed shelter in the former St. Mary’s convent at 23 Center St. has been completed to provide transitional housing for up to 24 months, offering holistic, personalized case management for women in need.

“The shelter addresses a critical need in Seneca County by expanding and enhancing services to homeless women,” said Laurie Piccolo, CAP executive director. “The overall goal of the program is to provide supports that will enable participants to transition to safe, stable and affordable permanent housing.”

The length of services will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Services can be provided for up to six months after a woman leaves to be on her own.

“We can effectively address the issues that have contributed to an individual’s homelessness after they are stably housed,” Piccolo said.

She said CAP staff and community partners working with them will provide a host of tailored services focused on building assets, skills and connections that will lead to self sufficiency. Services include case management, counseling, financial literacy, credit repair, employment skills training, job assistance and temporary financial assistance for related costs to attain stable housing.

The shelter is not staffed 24 hours a day and children are not permitted as residents. The facility will not be a safe house for victims of domestic violence. Women in that situation will be referred to Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes for discreet, secret, emergency housing.

Most referrals to the homeless shelter will come from human services agencies, with most expected to come from the Seneca County Department of Human Services.

Work on the conversion began in September 2018 by Frank J. Marianacchi Construction of Bloomfield, the lowest of four bidders at $1,069,600. The interior was essentially gutted and rebuilt to include nine bedrooms and shared common areas of a kitchen, dining room and storage area. Exterior work included new windows, a new roof and water lines to serve a new fire suppression sprinkler system.

The shelter was made possible by funding support from Generations Bank, the village of Waterloo, the New York State Homeless Assistance Program and the state Department of Homes and Community Renewal.

For information about the shelter program and how to apply for admission, women can contact Jamil Elisofon at (315) 539-5647, ext. 326 or email her at jelisofon@caphelps.org.

The CAP agency, headquartered in Auburn, leased the former convent from St. Francis-St. Clare Parish until deciding to buy it from the parish and convert it to the homeless women’s shelter. CAP moved its offices next door to the former St. Mary’s rectory, leasing it from the parish.

CAP is a private, non-profit that was incorporated in 1965 through the federal Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 to fight the war on poverty locally. It serves Cayuga and Seneca counties with a staff of 165 employees.

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