Saratoga Springs considering 'Code Blue' program

Posted at: 12/18/2013 5:08 PM
Updated at: 12/26/2013 5:34 PM
By: Mark Mulholland / WNYT Staff

Shelters of Saratoga is one of the places available for homeless people to currently go.
Shelters of Saratoga is one of the places available for homeless people to currently go.
Photo: WNYT

SARATOGA SPRINGS - With temperatures below zero lately, keeping warm has been on the minds of all of us. However, for those with simply no place to go, freezing temps are a matter of life and death.

Saying they don't want another person to die from exposure, Saratoga Springs is a creating a plan to bring homeless people in from the cold. The effort is being modeled after a program in Albany called “Code Blue”.

The program comes hot on the heels of the freezing death of a 54-year-old woman.

The woman, found on a loading dock outside the Senior Center last week, apparently went there to sleep.

The dock is popular place for Saratoga's homeless to crash for the night.

Even though there are beds available at Shelters of Saratoga, the woman who died, like others, chose not to go there because residents have to stay sober and follow the rules.

“It's the willingness of the individual to get involved in any kind of structure, whatsoever,” said Peter Whitten of Shelters of Saratoga.

Whitten says unfortunately some of the area's homeless will choose the streets over a warm bed and a meal because they can't drink alcohol.

Soon, there could be a place for the homeless to go when it's brutally cold.

“We cannot wait. We cannot afford to lose another life. No one should be sleeping on the streets in these cold temperatures,” says Saratoga Springs Mayor-elect Joanne Yepsen.

She is spearheading a plan to open an emergency shelter any time the temperature falls to 10 degrees. Volunteers would reach out to those on the streets and bring them into a shelter, likely a church equipped with cots, no questions asked.

The program would be called Code Blue, modeled after a similar program in Albany.

City police like the idea because they often encounter homeless people and can't do anything for them.

“A Code Blue would give us, afford us another option to provide assistance to those who need it at the time,” says Lt. Robert Jillson of Saratoga Springs Police.

Mayor-elect Yepsen has organized what she's calling an emergency meeting for Friday afternoon with those people and organizations who can help. She hopes to get the program up and running as soon as possible.