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Displaying items by tag: Code Blue Saratoga
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A temporary location to house the Code Blue Emergency Shelter has been secured at 4 Adelphi St., in advance of the winter season.
The single-story building – currently a vacant warehouse – is undergoing an installation of floors, walls, heat, plumbing and electric to make the space habitable, according to Shelters of Saratoga (SOS) – the organization overseeing the Code Blue program. The building is located just west of South Broadway. The city issued a building permit for the temporary emergency shelter – the permit details the location as 145 South Broadway – on Oct. 4.
An 18-month lease has been signed and will provide the program with a consistent location for the next two seasons, according to the organization. The hope is to open the shelter in early November.
The city plans to provide financial support for the program, as per its proposed 2020 budget. “This will help pay rent and costs related to the Code Blue facility in the off season,” Karen A. Gregory, executive director of S.O.S. said, in a statement.
Since opening in the 2013-14 winter season and through 2017-18 – the latest figures available, the number of those seeking shelter has increased each year. During the 2017-18 winter season, Code Blue was open 162 nights, served more than 8,000 meals, and provided sleeping quarters for a total of 6,480 overnight stays – or on average, 40 nightly guests. Presbyterian New England Congregational Church - or PNECC - was also open during 90 of those nights to care for “overflow” guests.
An executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo directs emergency shelters to operate when temperatures drop below 32 degrees.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city based Code Blue emergency shelter, which has had a transitory geographic existence since its opening in late 2013, has one final hurdle before landing in a permanent home.
Earlier this week, the city Zoning Board of Appeals upheld its May 2017 interpretation that the proposed new permanent shelter on Walworth Street is zoning compliant. The ZBA’s unanimous 7-0 decision came in the aftermath of a legal challenge to halt its development, led by a group of 22 area residents, claiming the development is not a permitted use within the Urban Residential Zoning District.
Following the ZBA’s Jan. 8 approval, the 22 Franklin Street residents opposed to the project issued a statement saying they were disappointed by the “erroneous determination” and that they will be identifying their next steps and actions “in the near future." The group has until Feb. 7 to file an appeal. Claudia Braymer, an attorney representing the residents, said on Wednesday the group had yet to make a final decision regarding an appeal.
The Code Blue Saratoga program was born from the tragic death of Nancy Pitts. The 54-year-old mother of two sought shelter on a Williams Street porch during a frigid December night in 2013. She was discovered by police the next morning. Within days of the homeless woman’s death, a cooperative partnership between then mayor-elect Joanne Yepsen, non-profit organizations, and members of the community was initiated, and a plan set in motion to site an emergency shelter in the city. Since that time, a series of temporary shelters have been housed at St. Peter’s Parish Center, the west-of Broadway Salvation Army building, and the east-of Broadway Soul Saving Station Church, and at times met with public opposition by some residents who lived near the location where the shelter was to be sited.
Last February, local business owner Ed Mitzen announced he would donate the funds to construct a permanent Code Blue homeless shelter atop Shelters of Saratoga property on Walworth Street. Shelters of Saratoga, or S.O.S., oversees the Code Blue emergency program and operates a case managed shelter and a twice-a-week “drop-in” center - which draws 20 to 22 people each day - at its two existing buildings on the property.
S.O.S. Executive Director Michael Finocchi said having the Code Blue emergency shelter on its grounds benefit those seeking help and provide a greater continuum of services. “First off, we won’t have to go looking for another (temporary emergency) place every year and it will also enable us to share services between Shelters of Saratoga and Code Blue – housing services, employment services; we can offer more to these individuals. This project will allow us to more easily connect homeless individuals with the support services they need.”
The city based shelter initially would open when temperatures dipped below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but in early 2017 Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order which directed emergency shelters to operate when temperatures drop below 32 degrees. Currently, Code Blue is temporarily housed at the Soul Saving Station Church on Henry Street, where since mid-November the 41-bed shelter has been at full capacity. The proposed new building will consist of approximately 6,500 square feet of space and house about 50 beds. The two-story building is slated to include a large kitchen, laundry room, men’s and women’s sleeping rooms, multiple showers and bathrooms, a large storage area for donated food and clothing, and a small Code Blue office.
On a single night in 2017, 553,742 people were experiencing homelessness in the United States and more than one-fifth of those people were children, according to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which was released December 2017. The number of people experiencing homelessness increased in 14 states between 2007 and 2017, and the largest absolute increases were in New York State – up by 43 percent during that time, according to the report, which notes that there are about 89,500 who are homeless in New York. And while New York may also have a greater population than many others, the national average state-by-state indicates 17 people per 10,000 are homeless, while in New York that ratio jumps to 45 people per 10,000 - a ranking that places N.Y. third worst in the nation.
The proposed permanent shelter Code Blue location heads for final approval back to the Planning Board, which meets for a workshop – a pre-meeting gathering – on Tuesday and for its full meeting Thursday, Jan. 18 when it is anticipated to discuss the matter. The proposal is not expected to meet much resistance; the Planning Board was unanimous in its support of a special use permit and site plan review for the facility, last July.
“It’s got to go back to the Planning Board, but we won’t have to go through the whole process like we did the first time,” Finocchi said. “It was already there before, and the vote was 7-0. Once we get our approval we can file for a building permit.”
Depending on the length of this year’s spring thaw, the site housing the permanent Code Blue shelter building could be operational by the 2018-19 winter season, which begins next November.
Mayor Meg Kelly, who began her term Jan. 1, thanked the ZBA following Monday’s unanimous agreement. “Code Blue is a community problem and we all must come together as a community to solve this problem. We are better as a group to help the homeless during these brutally cold nights,” Kelly said.
The proposed Code Blue permanent shelter:
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Two weeks into the winter season coupled with predictions that forecast freezing temperatures for most every day this month are pushing the status of the city based homeless shelter from emergency status into a near 24/7 operation.
Code Blue Saratoga, a program of Shelters of Saratoga, provides temporary unrestricted shelter during periods of hazardous winter weather - defined as 12 inches or more of snow and/or a temperature of 32 degrees or less, to include wind chill factor. Last year, the shelter was opened 28 times during the daytime hours over the course of the entire season. That number will already be eclipsed this weekend.
“The daytime temperatures are a lot lower this year,” says Code Blue Director Cheryl Ann Murphy-Parant.
Code Blue was started in December 2013 as a collaborative effort between the City of Saratoga Springs, faith-based groups, individuals and non-profit partners committed to assisting individuals who are homeless. The shelter is temporarily housed at the Soul Saving Station Church, on Henry Street.
Parant said current needs at the shelter include: milk, juices and ice tea mix; butter, sugar and coffee – regular and decaffeinated. Donated items may be dropped off at the shelter at any time. Additionally, a volunteer sign-up is listed on the organization’s website –https://www.codebluesaratoga.org/wordpress/ - where volunteers may sign up for a variety of duties.
The walk-in, emergency homeless shelter offers a hot meal, a warm and safe place to sleep and essential supplies. During the 2016-17 winter season, Code Blue housed more than 5,800 overnight stays and served 6,700 meals.
Shelters of Saratoga, which oversees Code Blue, had hoped to be operating a permanent shelter adjacent to its S.O.S. properties on Walworth Street this year after local business owner Ed Mitzen announced he would fund the costs to build the shelter and local firms Bonacio Construction and the LA Group agreed to forego any profits to keep the building development costs as low as possible.
Shortly after that announcement, however, a group of 22 residents filed a legal challenge claiming the proposed two-story building which would house about 50 beds didn’t fit into their west side neighborhood and that its development is not a permitted use within the Urban Residential Zoning District. Monday night at City Hall, the Zoning Board of Appeals is expected to discuss the matter.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The city’s Code Blue emergency shelter will again be sited at the Soul Saving Station Church as a temporary measure to house individuals who would otherwise remain unsheltered during harsh winter conditions.
Code Blue Saratoga, a program of Shelters of Saratoga, was anticipated to have secured a permanent location following the February 2017 gift offered by Ed and Lisa Mitzen to construct a permanent facility on the grounds of 20 Walworth St., where the current SOS shelter is located.
Bonacio Construction and the LA Group subsequently partnered with the Mitzen Family to provide the necessary project planning, which gained unanimous approval from both the city Planning Board and Zoning Board of Approvals. The two-story structure was slated to house about 50 beds.
But in July, the city’s determination of zoning and land use for the project was challenged by a group of nearly two dozen people who initiated a legal action to halt its development. As a result, initial construction timelines have been delayed pending judicial review of the project, and those delays forced those operating the shelter to look elsewhere.
Pastor Arnold Byrd II and The Soul Saving Station Church on Henry Street, the host site of last year’s Code Blue season, once again stepped forward to partner with SOS as the temporary host of its 2017-18 Code Blue season. “Being part of this community, we have a duty to assist those in need,” Byrd said, in a statement.
Both city mayoral candidates – Republican Mark Baker and Democrat Meg Kelly – acknowledged Soul Saving Station for stepping forward to provide a space for temporary shelter, in response to an inquiry seeking comment for this article, although no specific information was offered regarding the potential Walworth Street location. The responses, in full, are below.
Officials at SOS – who currently operate two other buildings on the Walworth Street property as well as a twice-a-week “drop-in” center – say having the Code Blue shelter in close proximity to the case-managed shelters maximizes the opportunity to provide a full continuum of services and more easily connect homeless individuals with the support services they need.
"What we foresaw and unfortunately now has happened is that poor leadership, bad planning and a lack of consensus building to address human needs is now locked up in litigation – a disappointing theme of the current administration to a very complex issue.
"I’m thankful that Pastor Byrd and the Soul Saving Station Church have stepped up to welcome those who need shelter into their Congregation.
"As the current proposal is in litigation, I will not be commenting further on future plans. However, as a community, we have a moral obligation and responsibility to show compassion and to be responsive to those already in our city who are in need and homeless, especially children. As Mayor, I would be personally committed to working with the faith, social services and business communities to find a solution to this complex issue that is sensitive to those in need, but is also responsible and respectful to our neighborhoods, schools and residents." – Statement from Mark Baker.
"Saratoga Springs helps its homeless with services from various agencies.
“The Code Blue overnight shelter is truly a community effort that offers meals, supplies, services through volunteer hours from businesses, support groups and individuals. I am grateful that the Soul Saving Station Church will host the shelter again this winter when the temperature drops below 32*F.
“It is my belief that a permanent home for Code Blue can be realized through public-private partnerships and if I am elected as Mayor I will work to make sure this becomes a reality for our community." - Statement from Meg Kelly.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Code Blue Saratoga Emergency Shelter’s annual “Blue Needs You” 8K run and expo took off through the streets of Saratoga Springs last weekend, and the results were all that the organization had hoped for.
Each year since beginning the 8K run event, Code Blue, a local emergency shelter for the homeless, sets a budget-level for the year going forward with the hope that the funds raised at the event will match or exceed it. This year, the proposed budget was $40,000, which the Blue Needs You event raised almost exactly, according to executive director Michael Finocchi.
“We were right on target,” Finocchi said.
This budget was up slightly from previous years’ races. Despite raising a larger amount, this year’s run saw fewer runners, 470, compared to last year, though still significantly higher than the first year. Finocchi and other at Code Blue say that this lower attendance may be due to other runs that were being held at the same time. This had not been the case in previous years.
This year’s run started out from High Rock Park in downtown Saratoga Springs. From there, runners took Lake Avenue for a ways, crossing up and down a number of side streets before ending up on East Avenue. From East, the runners went all the way to Excelsior Avenue where they took a right, following the street all the way through a loop it makes near the Residence Inn near the Northway. Coming back down Excelsior, they turned onto Excelsior Spring Avenue briefly, and then turned once more onto the Spring Run Trail. Following this trail all the way back down to East, they once again returned to High Rock where the run concluded.
Code Blue is a shelter that provides emergency housing for the homeless during severe winter weather conditions, such as when the temperature drops below freezing or when more than 10-inches of snowfall is predicted. Code Blue also works to transition its residents to more stable living situations, including apartments or rehab services.
“It was very reassuring when you’re down there and you see how many people care about those we help,” Finocchi said.
All photos by Photoandgraphic.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Mike Finocchi cast his eyes across the big room which stands on the corner where Henry and Caroline streets meet.
The executive director at Shelters of Saratoga took stock of the kitchen, where wood cabinets bookend a stove and microwave, a refrigerator and a freezer. He noted the spacious women’s and men’s restrooms, strolled through the large adjacent room where supplies and clothing will be stored, and imagined the dozens of cots that will be placed in the main room and made available to the city’s homeless population as a place to shelter during the harshest days of the impending winter.
After setting up shop at the Salvation Army building during the past two years, Code Blue Saratoga – which is under the guidance of S.O.S. – was in need of a new temporary center to house its emergency shelter. A lease agreement with Soul Saving Station, in effect from Nov. 1, 2016 to April 1, 2017, was announced this week. S.O.S. will pay the organization monthly rent. Finocchi declined to specify the amount, but called the cost “fair.”
“Thank God they stepped up,” said Finocchi. “It got to the point in the summer when you’re thinking: gosh, what are we going to do? We were running out of options.”
The need for a city emergency shelter during the winter months is great. In its first abbreviated winter season in 2013-2014, the emergency shelter was open 58 nights and housed 928 overnight stays. In each of the past two years, the shelter was open more than 80 nights providing more than 3,054 and 3,344 overnight stays, respectively, in addition to more than 1,700 others who were provided dinner during the winter seasons of 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Between 2007 and 2015, although homelessness nationwide decreased by 11 percent, it increased in New York, rising by 41 percent, according to the 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Between 2014 and 2015 alone, New York State’s homeless population jumped by 7,660 - the largest increase in the nation for the one-year period.
“You never know what leads one to being homeless,” Finocchi said. “It could be a bitter divorce, or someone who may have lost everything. You just never know.”
The Code Blue Saratoga program was born from the tragic death of Nancy Pitts. The 54-year-old mother of two sought shelter on a Williams Street porch during a frigid December night in 2013. She was discovered by police the next morning. Within days of the homeless woman’s death, a cooperative partnership between then mayor-elect Joanne Yepsen, non-profit organizations, and members of the community was initiated and a plan set in motion to site an emergency shelter in the city.
"After Nancy Pitts, I was determined no one would die on the streets of Saratoga Springs ever again," Yepsen said Thursday. No city funds have been used in connection with the shelter.
The shelter initially opened when temperature dipped below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order which directed emergency shelters to operate when temperatures dropped below 32 degrees. The new threshold – likely to mark an increase in the number of days the shelter would operate - complicated the process for the largely volunteer staff in Saratoga. Code Blue’s previous hosts - the Salvation Army Worship and Community Center on Woodlawn Avenue – could no longer house the shelter on site because the increased days would interfere with their own programming.
“It’s easier for places in Albany, Schenectady and Troy who have mission type places to run that kind of program, but we don’t have that here,” said Finocchi, who added he was thankful Soul Saving Station stepped forward to make their Fellowship Hall available.
“As soon as they reached out to us, we said, ‘we have available space,’” said Arnold Byrd II, church pastor at Soul Saving Station. “It made sense to us. It’s something we should be doing. You have to be supportive of those who need help.”
Whereas the Salvation Army housed up to 100 cots, the new venue is slightly smaller. “It’s going to be a little tighter here, but the bottom line is no one needs to be sleeping on the street,” Finocchi said. “If it’s a little more snug than the Salvation Army, so be it, but at least people have an option other than the parking garage, or the woods and a tent.”
Given the geographic proximity to the plethora of bars and taverns along Caroline Street, Finocchi said the organization will be diligent in monitoring the shelter and will institute a midnight curfew, after which people may come in, but not go out.
Code Blue Saratoga will host a meeting and offer training for volunteers in October. Those interested in volunteering their time can sign up at: https://www.codebluesaratoga.org/wordpress/volunteer/how-to-volunteer/
For those interested in donating items, Code Blue Saratoga Director Cheryl Ann Murphy-Parant said the emergency shelter’s largest needs are men’s socks and underwear, canned food, and individually-wrapped snacks.