Highlights of the October 2, 2007 meeting
of the
Tompkins County Legislature
Legislature Hears Report on Homeless Youth
Housing, transportation, education and finding a job are the primary needs of the county’s homeless youth.  Those factors were among the information communicated to legislators, as participants in the 2007 Independent Living Survey Project concerning the needs of the county’s homeless youth summarized the report’s findings for legislators. The study, updating a similar project conducted four years ago, was carried out through a  partnership involving the County’s Youth Services Department, the Learning Web, the Family Life Development Center at Cornell University and young adult participants in the Learning Web’s Youth Outreach Program. Currently and former homeless youth were involved as research partners, who collected survey data from more than 200 young people, participated in research design and helped to interpret results.   Some of them were on hand tonight to tell legislators about the needs the study identified.

Project director Jane Levine Powers, of Cornell’s Family Life Development Center, reported that the study finds great instability among the population, with many floating from one temporary housing situation to another, that conflict at home is a major theme, and drug use a common factor, both in the reasons that respondents identified for leaving home and within the population itself, with a common connection between boredom and drug use.  A significant number also experienced parenting issues.
Many had past experience with systems including foster care, and Nancy Zook, of County Youth Services, told legislators that element points out the need to “take a very close look at what kind of help we are providing for those kids.” 

Some of the youth identified problems in easily accessing social services, because of qualifications issues, and Legislator Pam Mackesey said that the findings tell her that there is “a great big hole in our safety net for children who leave home” and the need exists to more effectively communicate information on assistance that is available to reach the young people who need it.   Sally Schwartzbach, of the Learning Web, pointed out that systemic issues in this county, including high rental costs, make it very difficult for these youth.

Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne maintained that the factors of housing, transportation and employment are not isolated, but cumulative, said the matter of affordable housing must be addressed in a realistic way, and called for the voices of the youth to be included as the County addresses the affordable housing issue.

Community next steps recommended in the study include
-  affordable housing, appropriate to the individuals’ age and the support to maintain that housing;
-  daycare support, since a significant proportion of the sample surveyed are parents;
-  transportation to enable the youth to get to work and school and, in some cases, to get children to daycare, particularly covering rural areas where housing tends to be more affordable; and
-  financial support, to enable young people to finish their education and embark on the road to independence.
Contact:  Nancy Zook, Tompkins County Youth Services, 274-5310; Legislator Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, 277-5104; Legislator Pamela Mackesey, 273-6203.

Legislature Supports  Farmland Protection Initiative
The Legislature, without dissent, authorized the County to enter into an agreement with the Town of Dryden to implement a grant-funded program to preserve agricultural use for a parcel of farmland in the Town of Dryden.  The Agricultural and Farmland Protection Implementation Grant was awarded by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets under the highly competitive Farmland Protection Implementation Grant program, to purchase development rights on approximately 419 acres of Lewis and Linda Stuttle’s Lew-Lin Farm.  The action authorizes the County to enter into an agreement with the Town of Dryden to “co-hold, maintain and enforce an agricultural conservation easement on the Lew-Lin property in perpetuity.”  The designation will protect the property from non-agricultural development, even if the property is sold in the future.  Through an environmental review, conducted by the Town of Dryden, the action has been determined to carry no adverse environmental impact.
Contact:  Planning and Public Works Commissioner Ed Marx, 274-5560; Martha Robertson, Chair, Planning , Development, and Environmental Quality Committee, 272-0584.