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Code Blue Program Will Return To Saratoga Springs

Lucas Willard

Heading into its second winter, the Code Blue program for homeless people in Saratoga Springs will be returning this month with a new community partner and location.

Saratoga Springs mayor Joanne Yepsen announced Thursday the program that offers shelter for the homeless on cold nights would return this winter.

Last December, following the death of a homeless city woman, Yepsen, worked with community partners to establish the first-of-its-kind program for the Spa City. The program was modeled after the Code Blue program already established in Albany.

“We know we saved lives. We know we did and we’re going to again this winter.”

After a temporary location last year at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church helped people weather extreme nights, beginning  November 15th , the Salvation Army on Woodlawn Avenue will open its doors no-questions-asked to those in need on cold nights.

Yepsen, who serves on the steering committee of Code Blue Saratoga, said the partnership with the Salvation Army is an ideal fit for the program.

“The Salvation Army already serves this population, the Salvation Army already has a facility downtown, which is critical. The Salvation Army already has a mission very close to what Code Blue is accomplishing.”

The new location has a kitchen and showers, amenities not featured at St. Peter’s. Salvation Army Captain Amber Boone…

“We not only help feed people through our food pantry, and hundreds of thousands of people through our breakfast program, and we also offer a safe place in our after school program for the children who come in there. So now it’s our opportunity to offer people a hot meal, a warm bed, and a hot shower.”

Darlene, who said she at arrived Code Blue Saratoga last winter with everything she could pack into two duffel bags, said the program helped connect her with more help.

“I was talking with one of the volunteers at Code Blue, and I called the Shelters of Saratoga. There was no opening. And I was going to call again, but I’m like, ‘Wouldn’t I be harassing the people at the Shelters if I was to call again’ And that great volunteer who helped me said, ‘No, call again the next day. Some people  leave.’ So I called again the next day, and they said ‘Yes, we’ll do an interview for you.’ They accepted me and I stayed there for 17 days.”

With help, Darlene was then able to get her own apartment.

Although Mayor Yepsen made the announcement, Code Blue is not funded by the city.

Local philanthropist Bill Dake presented a check to Code Blue Saratoga from the Saratoga Foundation for $10,000 to help keep the program and new partnership with the Salvation Army afloat.

“Please understand  how significant this is to the community. It’s very symbolic of dozens of things that happen, and I can assure you all that you’re much more unique for an upstate city than you realize.”

Last season, Code Blue opened on Christmas Eve and was open for 58 nights. The program served 69 individuals.

This winter Code Blue Saratoga will run from November 15th through March 15th.

NOTE: This post has been updated 11/7/14

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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