BY JILL NAGY
Shelters of Saratoga, with a new executive
director, is moving in some new directions.
A family shelter is at the top of the list of
projects for the Michael Finocchi and he is also
deeply involved in Code Blue, the emergency cold
weather shelter program inaugurated last winter.
“I was shocked to find no shelter for families,”
The Department of Social Services places
families in hotels, usually far from downtown
and with no reliable public transportation, he
noted, where they are unable to get to a store or
look for a job. Most crucial, he said, “they are not
safe places for kids.”
“Everybody recognizes the need for a family
shelter,” he said, and he envisions a location close
to the existing homeless shelter on Walworth
Street, with access to the case management
services that are provided there.
Code Blue was instituted within days after a
woman froze to death outdoors one night last
winter. The program now guarantees a bed for
anyone who needs it when the temperature drops
below 20 degrees (including wind chill factor) or
more than 12 inches of snow are forecast.
The Salvation Army will provide space this
winter and local chefs will donate food for an
evening meal. The Salvation Army already serves
breakfast. Shelters of Saratoga is the fiscal agent
for the program and Finocchi is on the board of
Shelters of Saratoga operates a shelter at 14
Walworth St. in Saratoga Springs for people 18 or
older. It also has seven small apartments nearby
for people transitioning out of the shelter into
conventional housing. The organization also does
outreach to families residing in hotels, including
delivering “care packages” of toiletries, water,
and other amenities.
When children under 18 arrive at the shelter,
they are connected with other services, according
to Cindy Harrington, a coordinator at Shelters
of Saratoga. In addition, there is a drop-in center
The organization began in 2010 with an RV
doing outreach to chronically homeless people
in the Saratoga community. Today, the 32-bed
shelter houses more than 450 people a year,
most of them for 30-40 days. It services Saratoga,
Warren and Washington counties, with the bulk
of the clients coming from Saratoga.
The shelter houses people who are homeless
for a variety of reasons: loss of a job, loss of a
home, mental health or substance abuse problems.
The only people excluded are violent felons
and sex offenders, Finocchi said.
There is “zero tolerance” for drug or alcohol
use in the shelter and everyone is expected to
pitch in with chores, Harrington said. “This is a
place where they can catch their breath and plan
for the future,” she said, and receive help finding
housing, a job, or writing a resume.
Finocchi emphasized the need for case management
services to assist clients in getting their
lives back on track. Residents of the shelter meet
with a case manager twice a week. That need
continues after people leave the shelter for an
apartment and he encourages case managers to
keep in touch and check in regularly for at least a month with “graduates” of the shelter.
Most of the support for Shelters of Saratoga
comes from community contributions.
“This is a very generous community,” Harrington
said, both with money and with time as
volunteers. The organization is currently in the
midst of a fund drive with a goal of $31,000. Other
funding comes from government grants and rent
paid by the Department of Social Services. The
annual budget is $1.3 million.
Finocchi has been with Shelters of Saratoga
since August. Before that, he managed programs
in Schenectady and Troy. “There are different
challenges wherever you go,” he observed, “but
the need is the same.”
Shelters of Saratoga has a website, sheltersofsaratoga.org. They can be reached by telephone at 581-1097.