SARATOGA SPRINGS – A Saratoga Springs church that helped house homeless people when Code Blue first began in the city around a decade ago has expressed disheartenment following recent comments and events surrounding the now quashed proposal to create a permanent Code Blue and 24/7 homeless shelter at 5 Williams St.
The governing board of the Presbyterian-United Church of Christ, formerly the Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church, said it is disturbed by recent news that Shelters of Saratoga has backed out of a plan with the city to operate the Code Blue shelter in part due to threats made to Executive Director Duane Vaughn and SOS Board of Directors President Kathy McNeice.
“As followers of Jesus and readers of the Gospel, we understand that Jesus had a particular mission to help the poor, marginalized and vulnerable,” stated the letter from the church board. “Who are more marginalized and vulnerable than the homeless of our city who have nowhere to sleep at night?”
Shelters of Saratoga recently announced it had decided to back out of plans to operate the Code Blue shelter at the former city senior center due to community concerns. That came after parents and community members of Saratoga Central Catholic school held a meeting criticizing the plan and discussing next steps to prevent the shelter from moving into the location, which shares over 200 feet of property line with the school.
On Monday, Vaughn acknowledged the decision to find a different location also came after threats were made.
“This has completely shaken our home,” Vaughn wrote in an email to city council members explaining the decision to back out of the plan and threats. “My wife considered going to a family member or a hotel. The threats were unbearable. We had days of no sleep and constantly looking over our shoulders.”
Presbyterian-United’s board, which operates a soup kitchen that feeds many of the homeless in the city, said blocking the creation of the shelter goes against Jesus’ mission and that “issuing death threats against people whose professional lives have gone to caring for the poorest among us, is deeply contrary to what it means to be Christian.”
“As a Christian church, we admonish the behaviors of those who threatened and bullied while having the privilege of shelter and warmth,” the letter states. “Furthermore, we remind our community that to be Christian means to make sacrifices for the vulnerable among us and to love all our neighbors, including those experiencing homelessness.”