Next time it’s 70 degrees colder than it will be today — which will be in less than six months — Saratoga Springs will need a new overnight shelter for its homeless population.
Code Blue, which was started on an emergency basis after a homeless woman died of exposure last December while sleeping outside on a freezing night, needs to find a new home after using part of a Catholic school last winter.
A search is now on.
The city, while better known for its horse racing, displays of wealth and a thriving downtown, has a small but persistent problem with homelessness.
Last winter, after the death of Nancy Pitts, a temporary shelter was opened within days in space donated by St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Parish, but organizers are now looking for somewhere permanent.
“We are looking for a space that we can use during the coldest winter months, preferably somewhere accessible to downtown Saratoga Springs,” said Ron Deutsch, chairman of the site selection committee. “We are asking the community for help in locating our new site.”
The shelter last winter was staffed by volunteers, and relied heavily on donations from local restaurants and other businesses. The shelter was initially open whenever overnight temperatures dropped below 10 degrees, or heavy snow was expected. Later, the criteria was changed to 20 degrees.
The shelter ended up being open 58 nights. Given last winter’s prolonged bouts of bitter cold, Deutsch and others believe lives were saved.
“I think it provided them with a safe environment where they were in, out of the harsh elements,” he said.
Deutsch said the program needs to find a space that has a kitchen area and is big enough to house approximately 25 guests per evening.
Ideally, he said, there would be a large room for people staying overnight to sleep in and a separate one to congregate and eat in. The location would need a shower and bathroom facilities, and preferably be close to downtown.
Deutsch doesn’t see a danger of the program not being continued next winter. “I think no matter what, we’ll make it work,” he said.
Anyone with available space or potential ideas for locations may contact Deutsch at firstname.lastname@example.org.