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Saratoga Readies Programs To Aid Homeless

Shelters of Saratoga
Lucas Willard

With temperatures starting to dip, the Saratoga Springs' Code Blue program is open for the season and a new day-time drop-in center hopes to provide the homeless population with a hot meal and access to services.

The Code Blue program in Saratoga Springs was created two years ago in response to a homeless woman's death in sub-zero temperatures. On nights when the forecast is below 20 degrees or for a foot of snow, the homeless can check in for a warm bed, no questions asked.

Last year the program at the Salvation Army building downtown was open for 85 nights. So far this year it's been open two nights. Code Blue coordinator Cheryl Ann Murphy-Parant says she expects a busy third season, with traffic increasing as the word is out.

"It takes a lot with some of the homeless population to really get them to feel comfortable and trusting to come into a program. And so we've been able to build that up. And we've also had some great successes. We've had 14 people go from us to Shelters of Saratoga, so they actually became clean and sober and went into a program and are finding places on our own."

Initially run by a steering committee, Code Blue now falls under the umbrella of Shelters of Saratoga. Michael Finocchi is executive director of the only homeless shelter in Warren, Washington, and Saratoga counties...

"You know, we want to make sure that program is here long after we're all gone. So you need to be under the auspice of a lead agency. So, Code Blue is always looking for volunteers, we're always looking for volunteers. You can never have too many volunteers in this field. Especially with Code Blue, if we face a winter this year like we had last year — we were open for 85 days, 49 were continuous — it gets a little tough on the volunteers."

Murphy at Code Blue says there's volunteer training available this year and the organization hopes to have training materials online.

This week Shelters of Saratoga announced its new adult daytime drop-in center. Again, Michael Finocchi...

"So I reached out to some organizations to get some funding, some grant money, so I can at least do it one day a week for starters just to get them to come in. They can get a hot meal, get a shower, do their laundry. But most importantly, there will be representatives from various human service agencies within the city, within the county, as well as case management from Shelters of Saratoga. And that's the biggest piece of it all."

The drop-in center is partially funded by a $5,000 grant from Bank of America.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen helped to create the Code Blue program in Saratoga Springs. She said the non-profit community played an important part in helping to address the needs of the homeless. 

"The Code Blue was the very first that we got off the ground together, and now this drop-in center. But they were also instrumental in helping me end veterans homelessness in Saratoga Springs. So I count on our non-profit partners a great deal, and the business community, to work together to solve these problems."

Shelters of Saratoga's adult day-time drop-in center is open Tuesdays at 20 Walworth Street in Saratoga Springs.

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Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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