Six years at Samaritan House

Feb. 1 marked the six-year anniversary of the opening of Samaritan House homeless shelter in Saranac Lake.

Samaritan House is an eight-bed facility that provides shelter for people experiencing homelessness. Since it opened its doors six years ago, Samaritan House has helped 395 people experiencing homelessness.

The rate of individuals who transition into a secure, permanent living situation from Samaritan House is 85 to 90%. Residents stay for a length of three to four months as they address those issues that have led to their homelessness. Residents at Samaritan House meet with staff and create a plan to get support in place to ensure success with the program.

Some of the issues leading to homelessness include substance abuse, mental health and employment concerns. Once these issues are identified, the resident will get matched up with the appropriate community resource(s) to ameliorate the concern or strengthen existing skill sets. Samaritan House addresses these causes of homelessness through a range of essential support services, including mental and substance use disorder treatment, and employment. Citizen Advocates and St. Joe’s work with our residents for their mental health needs and substance abuse concerns. Samaritan House residents have the support of local employers, who are willing to set the residents work schedule around the public transportation schedule. Securing employment and working for a paycheck is important in the process of building self-esteem, independence and helping the resident to get back on their feet.

Samaritan House is supported by the Ecumenical Council of Saranac Lake, and Lakeside House Inc. is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Samaritan House. Referrals are made through the Department of Social Service offices in Malone/Saranac Lake (Franklin County) and Elizabethtown (Essex County). Admissions are on a first-come, first-served basis. Residents are responsible for procuring and preparing their own meals, household chores and maintaining a clean living environment.

Upon admission to Samaritan House, residents are expected to be actively pursuing employment, scheduling appointments with different support agencies, and even enrolling in and attending classes at North Country Community College. The idea of empowering individuals to take control of their lives is a major philosophy behind the program at Samaritan House. Meeting an individual “where they’re at” and building on existing strengths is crucial to their success at Samaritan House.

Samaritan House is incredibly grateful for the support of different community agencies: in no order — Anne Cooney and the volunteers with the Saranac Lake Interfaith Food Pantry, who provide a resource for the residents to get food items until they are in a more self-sufficient position; the volunteers with the Community Lunchbox who provide two delicious, hot meals a week; the volunteers with the First United Methodist Church, who provide the free weekly community supper; Eileen and the volunteers at Go Fish! Thrift Shop, who provide our residents with clothing and household items they may need when they complete the program; Gail M., who has quilted more than 50 amazing quilts that are given to residents once they successfully complete the Samaritan House program for their own living space; Joan S. and Carmen, who have created very useful “welcome kits” for the residents; Beth Phillips and her merry band of bakers, who spread holiday cheer by baking and packaging dozens of Christmas cookies for the residents; Zonta Club of the Adirondacks, which has donated supplies for our female residents; the incredible staff at Tri-Lakes Center for Independent Living, who guide residents in the direction of other supports to ensure success with independent living; all of the groups and individuals who have made financial donations in support of the program; and, of course, a huge thank you to the outstanding men and women of the Saranac Lake Police Department, Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department and the Saranac Lake Volunteer Rescue Squad, who are there for the residents in times of crisis.

Samaritan House is an invaluable community and North Country resource that continues to impact and change lives by helping those in need who are homeless and need a hand getting their lives back on track. Thank you for your continued support!

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Ernest Hough, MPA, is the program director of Samaritan House in Saranac Lake.


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