SARATOGA SPRINGS — In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, Shelters of Saratoga will be using a new location as an emergency shelter for the homeless currently housed at the Code Blue Shelter on Adelphi Street. The Senior Center at 5 William St. is being converted for this purpose.
“People experiencing homelessness not only are challenged to do what we are asking like, washing hands, staying indoors, talking to their medical providers when they are not feeling well - but many are already impacted with health issues, thus putting them at-high risk of contracting the virus,” said Karen Gregory, executive director of Shelters of Saratoga, which oversees the Code Blue program.
Individuals experiencing homelessness include many older adults, often with compounding disabilities. In Saratoga Springs, these adults often reside in small, congregate shelters or in unsheltered locations with poor access to sanitation. Their age, poor health, disability, and living conditions make them highly vulnerable to illness. Once COVID-19 is introduced to this high-risk population, further transmission will be very difficult to contain, hence inspiring Shelters of Saratoga to initiate a rapid response plan during the crisis.
SOS’s Case Managed Emergency Shelters house up to 32 individuals a night in a congregate-style setting. They also sponsor the Emergency Winter Shelter - Code Blue which houses up to 61 individuals each night between Oct. 15 and April 15. Quarantining someone inside the building is not an option.
“Across all of our programs, we will be working unconventional hours to secure coverage. Until this passes, we will not be doing business as usual - the safety of the team and all of the guests are of utmost importance to me. This is a difficult time and we do not have the luxury of working remotely. We are here, present and in the trenches - side by side the individuals we are serving,” Gregory said.
Shelter staff are monitoring guests for symptoms and encouraging people to self-report if they’re not feeling well. But in the event of an outbreak, Gregory said she would need support from the Department of Health, the Local Department of Social Services and area hospitals to treat and house the sick, as well as to make sure that they are connected with food and other services they depend on the shelter for.
“In this new location, we will have three rooms which will easily allow for separation. I am proud and grateful to work in a city that cares so deeply for its most vulnerable.”
S.O.S. also operates an outreach program for the many individuals living in motels scattered throughout the county, parking garages and those who do not come indoors. The SOS outreach team is working to get critical information about the virus to people, who are in many cases unaware of the dangers posed by this virus.