Serving Tompkins County’s homeless population during COVID-19 pandemic

Regional News

ITHACA, NEW YORK (WETM-TV)- Tompkins County Department of Social Services (DSS) along with St. John’s Community Services have been working to accommodate the needs of homeless persons in our community while supporting social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Those who typically stay at the homeless shelter are currently being housed in alternate locations. The Code Blue population, which are those who are provided accommodations when it is 32 degrees or colder, are being served at the homeless shelter while ensuring good social distancing practices are implemented.  In the event the number of individuals exceeds the number the shelter can accommodate, they too will be housed in alternate locations.

The Friendship Center is limiting their services but is still providing boxed meals for individuals and will accommodate those individuals who do not have alternate options for warmth and other needs. 

Outreach staff, consisting of DSS staff and other community partners, are visiting individuals who are experiencing homelessness and have provided information and education on COVID-19 and continue to offer options for sheltering and other services.  This outreach will continue, and resources will be encouraged and provided.

Tompkins County DSS continues to serve the community mostly over the phone.  If individuals are homeless or experiencing a housing crisis, they can call 607- 274-5644 for housing services or 607-274-5345 for cash assistance.  

If someone does not have access to a phone, they can come to the DSS office (320 West Martin Luther King Jr Street) where they will be met at the door and screened.  Once they are cleared to enter, they will be able to call their worker from the lobby phone and will be assisted.

Many community members have inquired about how they can assist the homeless during this time.  If you are interested in volunteering your time to help, please contact 607-274-5022.

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