ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – A new “dormitory style” homeless shelter is set to open in November at the site of a former gym next to St. Joseph’s Hospital. The former gym on High Street used to be run by Saint Peter and Paul’s church before it closed.

Brian Hart, the Commissioner of the Chemung County Department of Social Services told 18 News up to 48 individuals, not families, will be housed in cubicle style living spaces instead of separate rooms. Commissioner Hart says the shelter was supposed to open last year, but there was a delay in adding showers to the property as required by state law.

“It is about to reopen. Hopefully they did order the shower system finally,” Commissioner Hart told a Committe meeting of the Chemung County Legislature. Mr. Hart later told 18 News an 18-wheeler style trailer containing bathrooms and showers will be connected to the shelter. The shelter is also connected to the Elmira Free Community Kitchen. Drugs and alcohol will not be allowed inside the shelter, which will be run by Catholic Charities.

“The biggest struggle for us are the individuals that are unhoused, that choose not be housed, that live on the streets because you can’t make them. There’s no authority out there that can go, “you’re coming with me regardless” said Commissioner Hart.

Elmira City leaders also presented lawmakers a new “Point-in-time” report about homelessness in the Southern Tier. The non-profit Cares of NY, Inc. submits a yearly report to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The report analyzed five counties: Chemung, Steuben, Schuyler, Allegany and Livingston. It shows from 2022 to 2023, the total number of homeless people in shelters rose to 575, an increase of 88 people. The total number of unsheltered people rose to 594, an increase of 97.

“The reality is if you look back at 2019, that number is probably double,” said Emma Miran, the Executive Director of Elmira Community Development. “A majority are housed in hotels across the County. A majority are still women. Domestic violence is still a major issue and that was also something that happened during the pandemic. I do think it’s an issue across the country. I don’t think it’s an issue that’s unique to Chemung County.”

You can watch the full committee meeting about the new homeless shelter below: