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The Legislature, by unanimous vote ( Legislator Mike Sigler was excused), approved a one-time $100,000 funding increase for the agency Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources (OAR) to provide start-up funding enabling it to expand its range of services to provide transitional reentry housing for those returning to the community following incarceration at the Tompkins County Jail.
The funding will enable the agency to acquire and begin to rehabilitate a four-bedroom house at 626 West Buffalo Street in Ithaca to become a transitional reentry housing facility, with a projected capacity to house as many as five OAR clients. An additional $60,000 to support rehabilitation will be covered through outside grants and donations. Once rehabilitation is complete, OAR director Deborah Dietrich has indicated that the agency will obtain a mortgage on the property, and may have capacity in the future to offset the County’s supplemental funding through adjustments in future budgeted appropriations. County Administrator Joe Mareane has stressed that the County will have no ownership stake in the building.
Former Legislature Chair Mike Koplinka-Loehr spoke in support of the appropriation prior to the vote, noting that 20 years ago leaders of the faith community came to the Legislature seeking funding for transitional housing, which was not granted at that time. He said he hoped funding could be granted this time.
Rich John, who chairs the Legislature’s Special Jail Study Committee, as well as Public Safety, called the project a key element of reentry and what the County is trying to do to reduce the jail population. “This one house won’t do it all, but it is certainly a step in the right direction,” he said.