Town meeting today to discuss programs for seniors and youth

Southold’s programs for seniors, youth and people in need are in the spotlight in this month’s installment of the town’s draft comprehensive plan.

The draft Human Services chapter, released July 17, paints a picture of increasing needs for services for town residents at the same time that funding for these programs is dwindling.

One in three people in Southold is over the age of 60, according to the chapter, and the growth of the senior population “has increased the demand for public and private community-based services.”

The chapter also calls for the town to produce more bilingual materials in response to the 142.6 percent increase in the Hispanic population in town between the 2000 census and the 2010 census.

Financial hardships are also on the rise, with median household incomes decreasing in Cutchogue, Greenport, Laurel, Mattituck and Southold, and an increase county-wide in requests for food stamps of 168 percent in the past four years. The report also notes that domestic violence, which is exacerbated by substance abuse and economic hardships, is on the rise on the East End, at a time when federal child care subsidies are being cut.

Town Special Projects Coordinator Phillip Beltz presented the findings of the chapter at a public forum at the Peconic Lane Community Center Tuesday night, as an impending thunderstorm kept all but two community members from attending.

A second meeting is scheduled at the town’s Human Resource Center on Pacific Street in Mattituck at 2 p.m. today.

Mr. Beltz said the authors of the chapter would like to see the town host a monthly job bank with local employers seeking employees, and provide continued employment opportunities for financially disadvantaged youth through the town’s “summer works” program. They would also like to rekindle the town’s relationship with the Suffolk County Department of Labor, which briefly opened a satellite office at the Human Resource Center in Mattituck in 2010.

The chapter also calls for the renaming of the Human Resource Center, which has come under criticism from people who believe it sounds like it should be the name of the town’s employment office, not the town’s senior center.

The chapter also calls for more intergenerational programming, allowing young people and seniors to work together on projects and assist each other.

Mr. Beltz said that lack of public transportation was a major issue, particularly for young people who want to be involved in town programs. He and Human Services Director Karen MacLaughlin suggest repurposing some of the town’s aging fleet vehicles to be used for youth programs.

Mr. Beltz said the town is also working on a community service day this fall, when people who are interested in volunteering can talk to representatives from volunteer organizations about what they can do to help.

Read more from Tuesday’s meeting, including reaction from the public, in Thursday’s paper.

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