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First-time homeless on the rise in Utica

By By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Some are veterans who returned from duty to find their relationships had changed, and they couldn't go home. Others were hit hard by the economy, laid off or evicted. Whatever the backstory, the Utica Rescue Mission is seeing more first-time homeless people than other shelters around the country.

"We did a snapshot survey in October of this year and found out that 64% of the folks that come to us for shelter have never been homeless before," said Rescue Mission Executive Director Reverend Bill Dodge. "The national average for that from the other missions that were surveyed in this national study is 37%."

"I was homeless over a month ago and I called down here and they took me in," said first-time shelter resident Tom Haden, who found himself in that predicament when his landlord evicted him last month. "And I'm thankful that they did because I'd be on the street right now."

The Rescue Mission has room for 18 people, but they're in overflow more than half of the time. That means mattresses on the floor of a large room.
Dodge hopes to renovate next year and raise the shelter's capacity to 30.

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