Young people in need of shelter have an expanded opportunity to get it at a newly renovated and expanded facility on Albany Street, the program’s director said Friday.
SAFE House, a shelter for homeless and runaway youth, held the grand re-opening of its facility at 1344 Albany St.
The re-opening highlighted an event held by the Capital Region Coalition to End Homelessness to mark Homelessness Awareness Month.
At SAFE House, there are now 12 beds for youths ages 16 to 20. The program, begun in the 1980s, works to get homeless youth off the streets and connect them with other efforts to help stabilize their lives. They can stay at SAFE House for up to 30 days.
The new beds opened up even before the renovation was complete and have been full since, SAFE Inc. Executive Director Delores Edmonds-McIntosh said.
“Unfortunately, homelessness is not going away,” she said. “I’d love for it to go away, but it’s not.”
Homelessness Awareness Month is set in November because it starts the colder season, where the needs of the homeless become more urgent, officials said.
As if to underscore those needs, Friday morning’s event was held in the SAFE House parking lot as temperatures hovered near 40 degrees. Speaking at the event were several local dignitaries, some of whom noted the brisk air.
Among the dignitaries at the event was Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, state Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Delmar, and Saratoga County Supervisor Joanne Yepsen, D-Saratoga Springs. McCarthy referenced the recent storms that impacted New York and New Jersey, as well as last year’s Hurricane Irene. Those disasters underscore the importance of ensuring that help is available, he said.
“It just sets the tone where none of us really knows what can happen in life,” McCarthy said, “so that you want to be aware, you want to be prepared, you want to have these networks in place to make sure that we all have that stability in life and are able to go forward no matter what circumstance we may find ourselves in.”
McCarthy credited SAFE House, along with the YWCA and Bethesda House, with helping meet the need, helping thousands of people in the past year in Schenectady, Saratoga, Albany and Rensselaer counties, many of them children or families with children.
At SAFE House and its sister outpatient treatment program, Project SAFE, they celebrated Friday the completion of the expansion project, which has been in the works for about two years and cost $1.3 million. The bulk of that, $1 million, came from the Homeless Housing Assistance Program, with much of the rest coming with the help of foundations and fundraising, Edmonds-McIntosh said.
Youths at the shelter receive shelter, food and clothing, but also counseling and referrals for long-term placements. The end result, Edmonds-McIntosh hopes, is those youths keep from falling victim to the streets and to sexual exploitation.
“People from the community cared about the young people in the city and wanted this shelter here,” Edmonds-McIntosh said. “That is why we exist, because the community wants this shelter.”