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Friday, 07 November 2014 09:46

A New Home For Code Blue

By | News

Salvation Army Will Host Emergency Shelter

 

By Arthur Gonick

Saratoga TODAY

 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – As the city prepares for the holiday season, another set of preparations have been underway to assure that many who are not as fortunate as others will have some relief from winter’s icy chill. 

 

The result is that in 2014-15 the city’s Code Blue facility will have a new home –  The Salvation Army at 27 Woodlawn Avenue. Because of the building’s physical plant, combined with the ability to plan and routinize procedures, there should be several improvements to the delivery of services as a result. 

 

Mayor Joanne Yepsen was central in leading the initial effort in establishing a Code Blue facility. In announcing the new location officially, she stated:

 

“I am thrilled that Code Blue will be back for a second season, this time at the Salvation Army on Woodlawn Avenue.  I'm incredibly proud to be involved in this on-going partnership between non-profit organizations and our citizens to provide shelter to our homeless citizens during winter months. I can't thank all of my Code Blue partners, including the Salvation Army, enough. Their passion for helping others is inspiring and is what has made this effort so successful.”

 

Indeed, while this is a milestone, several critical needs are ongoing according to Saratoga Code Blue Coordinator Cheryl Ann Murphy, due to the nature of the task involved.

 

A readily apparent improvement is the increased length of the Code Blue Season, which will begin on Nov. 15 on those evenings where the temperature fall to 20 degrees (including wind chill) or 12 inches of snow are expected. 

Last winter, a Code Blue facility in Saratoga Springs was established for the first time right before Christmas Day - in response to the tragic death of Nancy Pitts on the streets of the city due to exposure. With little time to plan at the time, a remarkable and rapid response from many sectors of society was something to behold and be proud of. 

 

Another improvement is the existence of a Code Blue Coordinator from the beginning of the season. Ms. Murphy’s position was not established until near the end of the first Code Blue season. She outlined the changes that the move to Woodlawn will bring, as well as the ongoing needs.

 

“Because we will be at the Salvation Army this season,” Murphy said, “some logistical challenges will arise, but overall it’s a very good development. For one thing, the building is handicap accessible. Also, guests will have the opportunity to shower in the evening between 9 ­ 11 p.m.”

 

When Code Blue is activated, the shelter facility will open at 7 p.m. It will close at 8 a.m. Monday – Friday and 9 a.m. on weekends. The Salvation Army already has a breakfast program in place during the week and Code Blue volunteers will supplement this on weekend mornings. 

 

The actual notification procedures for activation of Code Blue involve weather forecasting and coordination in order to make sure that both guests and volunteers are notified in a timely manner. 

 

“We’ll be making announcements to volunteers through several sources,” Murphy said. “Announcements will be on our website (CodeBlueSaratoga.org), our Code Blue Facebook page and through email - people can sign up online to be added to an email tree.” 

 

For guests “we reach out placing signs will in the soup kitchen and library.” Murphy noted. “This year, we will begin a program where there be electric ‘candles’ with blue bulbs placed in several area businesses and public buildings that will be ‘lit’ (plugged in) when Code Blue is open.” Businesses that want to participate program in this can contact Murphy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Volunteering procedures have been somewhat modified. “People will continue to sign up for shifts through the website.” Murphy said. “The basic shift has been lowered to three hours instead of four, although we are allowing people to register for a double shift if they wish.”

 

Access to training has been improved for 2014-15 as well. “For shift supervisors, like last year, training is mandatory.” Murphy said. “This year, training will be offered to all volunteers ­ they will have the opportunity to attend a training class. There will be an online orientation all volunteers will need to read before they are permitted to volunteer.

 

As always, there is an ongoing need for donations of all kinds, given that this is essentially a community effort with little if any endowment. 

 

It’s no surprise then when Ms. Murphy states “cash donations are always welcome. But there are plenty of other ways people can make contributions and donations.”

 

“Last Code Blue season, we got an excellent response from local restaurants, food purveyors and bakeries to help provide the evening meal for Code Blue guests,” Murphy said, “and thankfully they have all responded positively to helping us again.”

 

When asked what kind of hard goods that individuals could donate – food, clothing, etc. they were seeking, Cheryl had no trouble coming up with a good-sized list. 

 

“The needs do change all the time as we go through the season, but as of now some of our biggest needs are meal replacement supplements - items like Boost or Ensure, individually wrapped snacks, Slim Jims, new men’s and women’s underwear (all sizes), new men’s and women’s warm socks and gallon size Ziploc bags.” She said. 

 

With the new facility secured at the Salvation Army, at least for this year, Murphy is working on developing a donation drop off schedule that will be posted shortly on the website. But if you have something to donate, she would love to hear from you now. 

 

“Call me directly,” she said. “My number is (518) 812- 6886. We’ll make it happen.

 

For more information, visit CodeBlueSaratoga.org

 

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