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Emergency Shelters Open As Cold Weather Arrives

Lucas Willard

As the temperature drops, emergency shelters have been opening across the region. But in Glens Falls, one shelter remains closed, as officials work to open the doors.

Winter’s officially still a month away, but unseasonable frigid temperatures haven’t waited.

While shelters have been opening their doors as below-freezing temperatures have descended on the region, the Open Door Mission in Glens Falls remains closed.

The city’s only Code Blue shelter allows homeless people to come in for a warm bed on nights with extreme weather, no questions asked.

Open Door Mission Director Kim Cook says the whole issue started when the facility leased last year for Code Blue nights went up for sale, leaving the organization scrambling for a new space.

“Because we thought that 103 Warren was going to sell, and it actually did go into a sale, and we were frantically searching for a  new place. The thing is nobody wants to lease to anyone for five months.”

Eventually the owners of the building said it was available after all, but then the Mission found itself confused over the proper permitting. Cook said initially she thought the Mission would have to go through the city zoning and planning boards for approval at the their next meetings in December.

“As we’ve been filling out the paperwork and everything, we felt that we fit as a hotel under the codes. And we were putting in the paperwork and such, and when we talked to Jim Buxton from Codes yesterday, he agreed that we did fit under that, which means that now we do not have to go through the zoning board, but we can just go by the planning board, which is December 2nd, I believe. And we are putting in all our paperwork today to get that done.”

Cook said last year the Open Door Mission served 53 individuals in Glens Falls, averaging around 15 a night.

In Saratoga Springs, the Salvation Army hosted its first Code Blue night Tuesday. Now in its second year, Code Blue Saratoga moved to the Salvation Army after a temporary stay at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church.

Earlier this month, Saratoga Springs mayor Joanne Yepsen and other community leaders celebrated the program’s second year and its new home on Woodlawn Avenue.

Salvation Army Captain Amber Boone said the facility features amenities that were not available at its previous location, and hosting Code Blue Saratoga fits with the organization’s mission and other services.

“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.”

Code Blue Saratoga hosted its first night on Christmas Eve 2013. It was organized after the freezing death of a homeless city woman.

According to Cheryl Ann Murphy-Parant, Code Blue Saratoga Coordinator, on Tuesday Code Blue served 30 meals and housed 20 individuals on its first night in the new location.

Tuesday night in Albany, Capital City Rescue Mission, one of the city’s two Code Blue shelters, opened its doors for an “unofficial” Code Blue night. Twelve individuals came through. Although overnight temperatures reached the 20’s, Albany’s official Code Blue program calls for shelters to open and emergency services to be on alert at 10 degrees.

Capital City Rescue Mission admissions director David Poach said he’s glad to see other communities begin to mobilize their own programs.

“We’re seeing other communities say ‘Hey, that’s a really good thing they’re doing, let’s take that on.’ So that’s a really good thing,” said Poach. “I do know people question, ‘Ya know, why is it 10 degrees and why is this one 20 degrees.’ And again, I think it’s really just, we’re aware that its life threatening cold, and we just want to get you in out of the cold. We don’t even want to ask questions, we just don’t want you to die out there.”

Last year, Albany Code Blue served 1,156 people on 72 nights.

In Glens Falls, Kim Cook hopes to have the Code Blue program up and running as soon as possible as she works with the city.

“I understand that the city has policies and procedures and they have to do their due diligence to make sure everyone is safe, however I do think we had some miscommunications last year and we need to be working together to make this happen. And now the city is trying to help us get this going and I just want to keep going on that track.”

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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