EDITORIAL: Find a way to approve Code Blue shelter in Gloversville

Residents stand outside of the Code Blue Saratoga shelter, Jan. 8, 2018.
Residents stand outside of the Code Blue Saratoga shelter, Jan. 8, 2018.

Go ahead. Let them snow you.

Let them say their decision isn’t about compassion.

Instead, let them tell you that it’s all about the law. That they have no choice but to follow the rules and the codes. Let them tell you that their decision is just about economic development and helping bring back business to the city.

Let them claim that the decision in Gloversville not to help homeless people survive the winter by allowing a Code Blue shelter in the old YMCA building on Bleeker Street isn’t about compassion.

Then ask yourself what you would do if you were one of those people freezing to death outside the building’s locked doors.

After hemming and hawing and making excuses for over three hours during a public hearing earlier this week, the Gloversville Zoning Board of Appeals upheld an earlier decision by the building inspector finding that a Code Blue shelter is not allowed in the building.

The Gloversville Free Methodist Church’s Center of Hope, which made the application and which operated the shelter under a temporary occupancy certificate last winter, now has until Jan. 6 to find a way to get a variance so the shelter can open.

Don’t worry. It probably won’t be that cold between now and Jan. 6. If we’re lucky, maybe they’ll go somewhere else, and become someone else’s problem.

Mayor Vincent DeSantis and the Common Council need to step in and find a way to quickly resolve this issue. They could schedule an emergency meeting and honor the request of the Center of Hope’s advisory board to amend the city’s zoning code to include the definition of a shelter so the Code Blue facility can open in the old YMCA building.

Maybe invoke some kind of emergency powers to get these poor people off the streets at night. The shelter only serves people from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m.

By the way, this idea that the shelter and the 10 people that take advantage of it on the coldest nights are some kind of threat to a vibrant downtown rebirth is nonsense. The Schenectady City Mission is right near the downtown business core, a block or so from the Proctors/Metroplex complex, serves many more people and is considered a city asset.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2016 executive order requires communities to help homeless people get off the streets during cold weather. So not only does Gloversville have a moral obligation to be compassionate, it has a legal obligation.

The fact that this matter was allowed to go unaddressed during the warm months is enough of a travesty. The fact that it’s still going on now is a disgrace.

There is a way to get these people the help they need, if only city officials are willing to find it.

And yes, this is about compassion.

Contact your elected representatives in the city and show them you have it.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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