A plan to build a permanent emergency homeless shelter in Saratoga Springs has gotten the green light after months of delays. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief LucasWillard was at Monday night’s decisive meeting.
A plan to build a two-story permanent Code Blue shelter on Saratoga Springs’ west side cleared a hurdle Monday night after a unanimous vote by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals.
“The motion passes 7 to 0…”
A group of nearby residents had challenged a determination that the shelter planned for Shelters of Saratoga’s Walworth Street property met the definition of a neighborhood rooming house.
Michael Finocchi is Executive Director of Shelters of Saratoga, which now operates the Code Blue program that has changed locations a handful of times since it was created in 2013 in response to the freezing death of a homeless woman. Finocchi said the Code Blue shelter has been operating at full capacity this season.
“We’ve been open for well over 28 days straight because of this cold snap. So we’ve been at 41 beds, completely full, every night,” said Finocchi.
Shelters of Saratoga already operates a case-managed shelter and adult drop-in center on Walworth Street.
Under an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo, emergency shelters must open their doors no-questions-asked to anyone in need when the temperature dips below freezing.
With the ZBA’s approval, Finocchi said Shelters of Saratoga will now work to determine next steps.
“Our plan for next week is just to regroup now that this is over with and see how to proceed from here,” said Finocchi.
Attorney Claudia Braymer represented opponents, who have 30 days to challenge the ZBA’s determination in court.
“Well, I think the ZBA was in a really tough position. No one wants to make some sort of determination that looks like they’re against people who are homeless. And they had to make a tough ruling tonight,” said Braymer.
The public was not given the chance to speak at Monday night’s meeting; comments on both sides of the issue were provided during a packed meeting three weeks earlier.
But after the board’s decision, a small group of nearby property owners opposed to the Code Blue shelter huddled in the hallway outside council chambers.
Robert Pringle, who owns property on nearby Franklin Street, said he still believed the Code Blue shelter does not belong in a residential area.
“Homelessness is a real thing and I think there’s a lot of compassion about homelessness, but the folks that are involved in the Code Blue are a different group,” said Pringle.
Pringle said individuals have defecated “repeatedly” in the alley that separates his property and Shelters of Saratoga. He said he’s also called the police on an individual he claimed was harassing a tenant, though has not pressed charges.
“And again, this is not about SOS, this is about an element that is above and beyond…or another element of homelessness.”