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Saratoga Springs Holiday Inn Housing Homeless During COVID-19 Crisis

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A hotel in downtown Saratoga Springs is now housing the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During the cold months of the year, a Code Blue shelter in Saratoga Springs hosts the homeless. This season, the center operated by Shelters of Saratoga was operated at 4 Adelphi Street.

However, in March, as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened and to maintain social distancing – something not possible on Adelphi Street – the city took steps to locate an emergency shelter at the Saratoga Senior Center at 5 Williams Street. 

Fast forward to Tuesday night, when Mayor Meg Kelly, a Democrat, introduced a measure finalizing the city’s exit from the Senior Center.

“I would just like to thank Lois Celeste, Executive Director of the senior center and her staff. We turned their operation upside-down. They worked with us side-by-side. And I couldn’t be happier. They have their building back. We exited over the weekend, we had it cleaned, so they are all happy.”

Less than a week earlier, Mayor Kelly and Shelters of Saratoga Executive Director Karen Gregory approached the Holiday Inn on Broadway to serve as a new temporary shelter.  

Hotel general manager Kevin Touhy said he was happy to help.

“It just made sense. It moved very, very quickly. I think they stopped in Thursday of last week, we had the conversation, and on Saturday folks were moving into the hotel.”

The hotel is providing 34 rooms to people experiencing homeless. The hotel provides private bathrooms, important for maintaining hygiene and preventing any possible spread of the virus. The space also allows for food service, case management, and other services.

In a statement, Gregory said she made requests to Saratoga County to move the organization’s shelters into a hotel before somebody tested positive for the virus, but she says she was told that wouldn’t be possible until a positive case.

Thinking that would be too late, Gregory took her concerns to Mayor Kelly. That’s when they went door-to-door to find a location.

Mayor Kelly also expressed her gratitude for the Holiday Inn for taking on the responsibility.

Kevin Touhy said normal business has been slow during the outbreak, but that the Holiday Inn is proud to be able to help at a time when many hotels are struggling.

“There are some hotels that have had to close their doors. And that’s a financial reality that a lot of us have had to grapple with, as well. But those that can stay open, that can justify doing so, that can assist our community while keeping our community members employed…it’s a win-win.”

Also this month, the Hilton Garden Inn across from Albany Med began providing space for doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals during the pandemic.

Dubbed “Heroes Landing” the effort is a collaboration from SEFCU and BBL construction services, with support from insurance providers CDPHP and MVP healthcare.

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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