SARATOGA SPRINGS -- City officials have found a location for the Code Blue homeless shelter program for this winter and next winter a few blocks from downtown.
Shelters of Saratoga, a non-profit group that is the city's lead agency for helping the homless, has reached an agreement to rent a vacant building on Adelphi Street for the next two winters, and is starting the necessary renovations. The site is off South Broadway, a few blocks from the business district, in an area where most uses are non-retail commercial.
The arrangement will give the city a winter shelter for the next two years. In the meantime, the city will work with the non-profit group to come up with a permanent location for the shelter, said city Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan.
It also provides an immediate answer for this coming winter, something the city didn't have. "We just have to have one. It's going to get cold soon," Madigan said.
Previous efforts to find a permanent location for the winter shelter have run into opposition from neighbors that has halted the efforts, but city officials have repeatedly said they would prefer to have a permanent location. Executive orders issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo each winter in recent years have required cities to provide homeless shelters when temperatures drop below 32 degrees at night.
An average of 55 people stayed in the Code Blue Shelter last winter, when it was open every night, rather than just when the state order required.
Shelters of Saratoga has been seeking people to work at the new shelter this winter, with supervisors, security and support workers sought immediately.
The shelter, which has relocated three times since the program started in 2012, had been at the Soul Saving Nation church for the last three winters, but that space is unavailable this year because of renovations. An initial offer to host the program this winter made by the New England Congregational-Presbyterian Church, which was an overflow shelter last winter, was suspended after the church's neighbors spoke out.
The City Council earlier this month authorized a $50,000 allocation for Shelters of Saratoga to pay rent or cover other Code Blue costs not covered by state or Saratoga County money. The city will have have one of its community development employees working on developing a long-term plan.
"From what I understand, that [Adelphi Street] temporary solution gives us a solution for two years, and that will then give us two years to come up with a permanent solution," Madigan said.
"We really want to do a thorough [study] that comes up with several options," she said.
The proposed 2020 city budget also includes $20,000 to help pay for an outreach worker at Shelters of Saratoga, Madigan noted.
Saratoga Springs, like cities across the country, has seen an increase in recent years in its homeless population -- or the homeless have at least become more visible. Many of the city's homeless camp out during the warmer months, but dozens seek shelter during the winter. Those who provide services say the shelter program also gives them contact with people who might otherwise be resistant to receiving help.