Did you know there almost wasn’t a Code Blue Shelter in Saratoga this year? Thanks to the Soul Saving Station Church on Henry Street, that possibility didn’t become a reality.
Here’s why the Code Blue Shelter is important and what you can do to help.
What the Code Blue Shelter Does
Code Blue shelters provide a place for the homeless to go when it’s at or below freezing or when there is 12 inches or more of snow – they get a place to sleep, an opportunity to shower, and meals. The Code Blue Shelter in Saratoga was founded in 2013 after a homeless woman died on the streets during frigid temperatures.
According to Mayor Joanne Yepsen, Code Blue not only saves lives during the harsh winter months, but the program also inspires a sense of community among the homeless population and the staff and volunteers at the shelter.
“What we have found, which is amazing, is that there’s trust being built between people who didn’t think there was any future for them,” Yepsen told the Saratogian. “It’s building trust between themselves, between the shelter staff, and all of our Code Blue volunteers and the homeless and getting services that so many of them need to move on with their lives.”
Why There Almost Wasn’t a Code Blue This Year
The first Code Blue in Saratoga was hosted by St. Peter’s School; the following two winters it was at the Salvation Army building. The Salvation Army found it too difficult to manage both the Code Blue and their family-oriented programs. The organization announced in May that the building was not equipped to meet the requirements of an overnight shelter.
In January of this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an Executive Order to protect homeless individuals from inclement weather where temperatures dip to 32 degrees or below. The order also requires homeless shelters to extend hours of operations so those without shelter can remain indoors. In the event a city is lacking facilities or resources the State would need to intervene.
“A lot of places entertained our offer but the monkey wrench was the whole 32 degrees,” Michael Finocchi, Executive Director of Shelters of Saratoga, told the Saratogian about trying to find a new location – Shelters of Saratoga provides services for the homeless and became affiliated with Code Blue in 2015.
With the definition of inclement weather being 32 degrees or below, the number of individuals using Code Blue is expected to be higher than normal – this in turn means that the location needs to have the space to accommodate these people.
This is where the Soul Saving Station Church comes in, as they have a community room with adequate space to house the homeless individuals. The church is located at 62 Henry Street.
With the prospect of no Code Blue in Saratoga, the main priority was finding a location for this winter. Now that the site has been confirmed, Shelters of Saratoga is looking for a more permanent residence for Code Blue going forward.
While Code Blue only operates in the winter, Shelters of Saratoga believes the community needs a year-round drop-in center for the homeless to utilize for shelter and additional services and resources.
Code Blue in Saratoga is aiming to start offering services in November, but that date may be pushed up depending on how the weather behaves.
What You Can Do
Code Blue relies on the community’s support to be able to provide the essential services it does. The program needs volunteers for activities like setting up cots, preparing meals, cleanup, helping the guests settle in, monitoring shelter activities, ensuring guidelines are met, and picking up laundry from a local laundromat that washes and sanitizes the bedding.
If you’re interested in supporting the shelter activities, you can sign up at www.codebluesaratoga.org.
Also, as of this past summer, there are decorative drop boxes along Broadway where you can donate money towards nonprofit organizations that help the homeless.
- Saratogian: Code Blue finds new shelter