SARATOGA SPRINGS — Plans for a permanent Code Blue shelter to keep homeless people safe in the winter have been blocked by a Supreme Court judge in Saratoga County.
According to Shelters of Saratoga (SOS), Judge Robert Chauvin, ruling on a lawsuit filed against the city, nullified a decision by the city’s Planning Board to allow a permanent Code Blue shelter to be built on Walworth Street, next to SOS headquarters.
The special use permit was granted on 11 conditions by the board, including that the walk-in emergency homeless shelter only operate in accordance with state law when temperatures in the city dip below 32 degrees, and that all activities must cease at 10 p.m.
Other conditions were that a permanent neighborhood advisory council be formed and that it be made up of at least four residents who live in the immediate area of the Code Blue shelter.
Franklin Street residents filed a lawsuit in July, challenging the Planning Board’s decision.
The 22 neighbors also filed a lawsuit in July of 2017 to challenge the Planning Board’s previous approval of the project and the Zoning Board’s dismissal of the neighbors’ lawsuit.
For the coming winter, SOS plans to continue using the Soul Saving Station Church on Henry Street in downtown Saratoga Springs. The shelter serves homeless people in Saratoga, Washington and Warren counties.
“Our plans to shelter people for the upcoming winter season are well underway, thanks to the commitment of Soul Saving Station Church and Presbyterian New England Congregational Church as temporary locations for Code Blue,” SOS Board President Marcy Dreimiller said in a prepared statement. “We are disappointed in the decision and will now need to evaluate what options exist for a permanent, long-term solution for the Code Blue program.”
Joe Bonilla, a spokesman for the neighbors group that filed the lawsuit, released a statement on behalf of the neighbors Tuesday afternoon.
“Given the order and judgment of the court that the proposed Walworth Street shelter expansion was not an appropriate use of zoning, it is our hope that the Shelters of Saratoga, the city, the neighbors, the county, and involved parties can work together to carefully address homelessness and Code Blue services in our community,” Bonilla wrote. “Alternate sites have been offered and should be considered as part of a meaningful, long-term solution.”
Rosemary Riedhammer, director of development and marketing for Shelters of Saratoga, said the litigation already had the organization planning to use the Soul Saving Station Church as the main shelter, with the New England Congregational Church as an overflow location.
“Since there was ongoing litigation, we knew we wouldn’t have a brand new building ready by winter, so we were always planning on using those temporary locations,” Riedhammer said.