In September, Code Blue Saratoga announced it would be prepared to operate come November from the Soul Saving Station church on Henry Street.
The program, overseen by Shelters of Saratoga, offers a hot meal and a warm bed to the homeless on freezing nights. Last winter, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order requiring all emergency shelters to open their doors when the temperature dips below 32 degrees.
The new requirement created issues for Code Blue at its location for the last two years, the Salvation Army building in downtown. Capital Region Salvation Army Director of Development Michele Brumsey said at the time that operating with extended hours “would further limit the Army from conducting any afternoon or evening programs” and that the building was “not equipped” to function as an overnight shelter.
There was some celebration when Code Blue announced its Henry Street location after a long search, but a coalition of local residents and property owners took issue with the site.
Ken Schooley owns property across the street from Soul Saving Station. He said the coalition had safety concerns about the area, which is frequented by kids, including the nearby Saratoga Children’s Museum.
“You’ve got the Lake Avenue school, you’ve got the library there, the Waldorf school comes down and uses library services all the time. You’ve got the safety factor – not so much worried about assaults and things like that – but just the intimidation of people wanting to use that area that’s very heavily trafficked,” said Schooley.
Another concern expressed by the group is that the Henry Street location is located close to several bars that are open late into the evening.
The coalition met at City Hall September 30th and brought their concerns to Mayor Joanne Yepsen.
“I’m convinced that something good is going to come out of this. And I do hope the conversations with Salvation Army go well,” said Yepsen.
Yepsen, who helped form Code Blue after the freezing death of a homeless woman in 2013, said she’d also like to take the issue to the Saratoga County Department of Social Services.
Dr. Selma Nemer, who owns One Roof, a holistic practice two doors down from Soul Saving Station, said the group is not against those needing assistance. She said the coalition is interested in fundraising to help Shelters of Saratoga fulfill its goal of finding a permanent location for an emergency shelter and drop-in center.
“I mean, it’s really been very constructive. We’re excited because it’s kind of fermented a whole movement. We’re all getting involved,” said Nemer.
Shelters of Saratoga Executive Director Mike Finocchi, who also attended the meeting, said the life-saving program will be open in the Spa City.
“So it’s making a difference and hopefully somewhere down the line it gets to a point where we don’t need a Code Blue anymore.”
Finocchi said either way, Code Blue is prepared to open its doors on freezing nights beginning November 1st .