Saratoga Springs

Shelters of Saratoga welcomes new director

New director is seeking permanent Code Blue location, growth of affordable housing options
Karen Gregory stands outside the Shelters of Saratoga's Walworth Street office on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.
Karen Gregory stands outside the Shelters of Saratoga's Walworth Street office on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Karen A. Gregory has been named the new executive director of Shelters of Saratoga, which operates the city’s Code Blue program and a shelter on Walworth Street.

Gregory, who previously was executive director of the Columbia-Greene Domestic Violence Program, led that agency through the acquisition of two shelters and two transitional-living apartment buildings, shelter officials said.

In addition to her nonprofit experience, Gregory has served in law enforcement and, most recently, in a regional operational leadership role for Target Corp.

She applied for the position after hearing Shelters of Saratoga was looking for a new leader, following the summer departure of Michael Finocchi.

“There was something always pulling me back to the non-profit sector,” she said on Thursday. “Code Blue is a big focus, and another is affordable housing in Saratoga.”

She hopes to find a permanent location for the Code Blue winter shelter program, after a lawsuit by residents last year blocked city-approved plans for a Code Blue shelter next to the current SOS primary shelter. She also hopes to work with others toward increasing affordable housing options in Saratoga Springs.

“It’s a community issue,” she said, adding that she hopes to work with the mayor and City Council to address homelessness. “I’m going to collaborate with anyone I can collaborate with,” she said.

SOS helps people find housing and treatment for issues that contribute to homelessness. It operates shelters, outreach programs, a drop-in center and low-income housing programs, with a staff of about 40, including paid staff and volunteers.

“Simply putting a roof over one’s head does not address the supportive care some people need to retain housing,” Gregory said. “The ‘housing first’ model of care removes the pre-conditions and barriers to housing some face. It provides stability through permanent housing, then works to address health conditions, substance use and financial stability.”

Code Blue, which started in the winter of 2013-14, and is based, for a third year, at the Soul Saving Station Church in downtown Saratoga Springs, provides housing to more than 100 individuals during the winter. The shelter, which can house about 36 people on any given night, has been full most nights this winter.

“Things are going well. I think my team is doing a really good job there,” Gregory said.

Finding a permanent Code Blue location is a goal, she said.

“We are looking for resolution and to find a property that works. We’ve got some options we’re looking into,” she said.

Gregory, 52, attended SUNY Stonybrook and the Zone 14 Police Academy. She has been an officer with town police departments in Columbia and Greene counties, experiences she said helped prepare her for working with human services agencies.

Gregory lives in Hudson and is married, with a grown son. She plans to commute to Saratoga Springs from there.

“When you love what you are doing, the drive isn’t that much of a problem at all,” she said.

In 2017, Gregory received the Resourceful Women’s Award from the YWCA of the Greater Capital Region, recognizing her community and professional efforts to advance the empowerment of women and girls.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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