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Gregory leaves Shelters of Saratoga

Gregory leaves Shelters of Saratoga

Gregory was with organization for 18 months, praised for leading homeless assistance efforts
Gregory leaves Shelters of Saratoga
Shelters of Saratoga Executive Director Karen Gregory in April
Photographer: Erica Miller/Staff Photographer

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Karen Gregory has left her job as executive director of Shelters of Saratoga, the city's non-profit homeless shelter.

An email sent to supporters of the city's non-profit homeless shelter gave no explanation for the departure, which comes after 18 months on the job and as the shelter and the city have been searching for a permanent home for the Code Blue winter homeless shelter program.

"As is our policy with all staff departures, in order to protect the privacy of all parties, we will not be offering additional information on her departure," the shelter board said in the mail, send to shelter volunteers and other supporters on Tuesday. "We appreciate your understanding."

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Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly said the departure leaves "a big hole" in the city's efforts to help the homeless.

"She made so much progress in the time she's been here," Kelly said. "You can't replace a Karen Gregory."

Kelly said she didn't know the circumstances of Gregory's departure, but she described it as a "setback" for all the city's efforts to address homelessness. "We're devastated here in the mayor's department."

Shelters of Saratoga operates two shelters for the homeless who are trying to change their lives on Walworth Street, plus an outreach program to provide basic necessities to people who are living in the woods or other outdoor locations during the warmer months. It also operates the winter Code Blue program, which provides shelter to all homeless during cold weather.

Gregory stabilized or expanded those efforts, and also secured grant money for the programs, Kelly noted.

Saratoga Springs Code Blue has operated at a series of temporary locations since it started in 2014, but has struggled to establish a permanent location, with proposals running into neighborhood opposition. Last fall, Shelters reached a two-year agreement to occupy a building on Adelphi Street while the search for a permanent site continued

In spring, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Gregory made arrangements for the homeless to use a wing of the Holiday Inn. Before that, it had used the city senior center, which was unused because of the pandemic, and before that it was using a building on Adelphi Street, which was housing the homeless in one large room.

As part of that arrangement, Gregory moved into the Holiday Inn to oversee the operation and stayed for eight weeks. Despite the homeless generally being at higher risk of getting illnesses like COVID-19, none at the Saratoga shelter became ill.

The board, in its email, urged supporters of the organization to continue their volunteering and support. There was no word on a possible replacement, or how long it might take to find another leader for the organization. The post was vacant for about five months in 2018 between the departure of previous executive director Michael Finocchi and Gregory's hiring.

"While transitions are never easy, the board is working hand-in-hand with the staff to ensure no disruption to daily operations or larger project initiatives occurs during this period," the email said. "The health, well-being, safety, and success of our guests is our ultimate priority and guiding mission."

Gregory came to Shelters of Saratoga in January 2019, having previously been executive director of the Columbia-Greene Domestic Violence Program and worked as a police officer in Columbia and Greene counties.

The board, in its email, urged supporters of the organization to continue their volunteering and support.

"While transitions are never easy, the board is working hand-in-hand with the staff to ensure no disruption to daily operations or larger project initiatives occurs during this period," the email said. "The health, well-being, safety, and success of our guests is our ultimate priority and guiding mission."

Gregory did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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