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Bethesda House in Schenectady celebrates groundbreaking for Cara House expansion

A groundbreaking was held Tuesday afternoon in Schenectady on a $8.5 million project to provide permanent supportive and emergency housing for the formerly unhoused.

Cara House, to be built along State Street, will serve adults experiencing homelessness and those re-entering the community from incarceration. It will be operated by Bethesda House, which has served the city’s most vulnerable residents for three decades.

The project began in 2020, but Schenectady County legislator Michelle Ostrelich says it was placed on hold by the coronavirus outbreak.

"The pandemic happened, right, and it threw a lot of organizations for a loop," Ostrelich said. "And what it ended up doing for many projects was either delaying or causing a funding gap. And what the county is so pleased to have been able to do is step in when Cara House had that funding gap because of COVID."

Ostrelich is also a Democratic candidate for state Senate.

Schenectady County committed $200,000 for the project. Mayor Gary McCarthy says the city of Schenectady gifted ownership of the property, a vacant lot on State Street, to Bethesda House.

"And these projects look easy," said McCartrhy. "They look simple. Oh, you're gonna have this placard here, we'll be a real building. But these deals are complicated. They're challenging. There's a lot of moving parts in terms of lining up the financing, that it is not an easy deal."

New York State Homeless Housing and Assistance Corporation President Dana Greenberg says the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s Homeless Housing and Assistance Program provided $6.4 million for the project.

"Cara House will create 37 units and 42 beds of supportive housing, 26 units of permanent supportive housing and 11 emergency units with 16 beds," Greenberg said. "Supportive housing brings together tailored services needed for homeless individuals to achieve a better stable life. OTDA will also be providing the operating funding and rental subsidy for the permanent units through our ESSHI program, the Empire State supportive housing initiative."

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority chipped in $33,000 through its New Construction Housing Program, and an additional $1 million in support for the project came through the Federal Home Loan Bank.

McCarthy says the finished building will be ready to open in a year. "We're providing opportunities for everybody in the community. We have high end residential developments. We've got a lot of middle class housing that's marketed through our homes program. And we have some of the transitional housing that is going to go on this site, that are going to help people out when they needed the highest level of support from the community," said McCarthy .

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.