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Saratoga Springs task force recommends location for permanent shelter

 Mayor Ron Kim's task force on homelessness
Aaron Shellow-Lavine
Mayor Ron Kim's task force on homelessness

Beginning with more than 25 potential locations for a permanent shelter at its first meeting in February, the panel narrowed the search to one preferred site, with two back-ups.

The task force’s first choice is a plot of land two miles east of the downtown core on Lake Avenue.

In a 5 to 1 vote, with one abstention, the task force made its recommendation, which now goes to the city council for final approval.

Task force member Reverend Kate Forer hopes the size of the location would allow for more creative solutions to meet the needs of homeless residents.

“My hope is that there might be some dreaming and innovation and creativity with the city and with local nonprofits on what else could be put on that parcel of land," said Forer. "Whether it's low-income housing, or different kinds of housing, for people who need it that go beyond the emergency shelter. So, I really liked the size, that was a huge reason I chose it and the price point was pretty good.”  

In a city known for its sky-high real estate prices, the listing price for the 3.7-acre parcel on Lake Avenue is $800,000.

The task force’s lone no vote came from Hannah Hurley, a co-chair of the Capital District Democratic Socialists of America’s Housing Committee. She said the location may be too far away from where the unhoused are currently living.

“We want them to move into housing, but my concern yet is with the distance that would potentially be there is; how are they going to get there? How are they going to get back and forth?" Hurley asked. "Lots of discussion with the CDTA bus. But again, that costs money, these people don't have money. They mostly have bikes and walking.” 

With officials seeking to build a permanent low-barrier shelter, a temporary shelter recently opened on Adelphi Street, run by RISE Healthy Housing and Support Services.

RISE Associate Director Lindsey Connors, the task force member who abstained from Thursday’s vote, said it’s vital to get the job done.

“We have been full since day one. We opened day one with 30 beds, and the next day added another six, and we've been full every day since then, with a waiting list." Connors continued, "So there clearly is a need out there. But low barrier shelters as much as we do want to have one in our community for this immediate need. The long-term solution is supportive housing.”

City officials have discussed building a permanent shelter for years, but previous proposals were met with community backlash. It was the failure of a plan to locate a shelter in the former Saratoga Senior Center that led to Mayor Kim’s creation of the task force earlier this year.

Homeless advocate and case manager at CAPTAIN Community Human Services Cara Granata says this summer has seen an increase in the number of unhoused people in Saratoga Springs.

“I'm also seeing more and more homeless people come up from the city," said Granata. "They're promised work at the track or they're promised a place to stay and they are left with nothing and they're walking the streets.” 

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