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Displaying items by tag: Jeannie Laverty
25 Years of Hope from Homelessness: Shelters of Saratoga Celebrates Anniversary
SARATOGA SPRINGS – This year, Shelters of Saratoga (SOS) is celebrating 25 years of helping the homeless take back their lives and get back on their feet. On Thursday, April 7, the anniversary will be officially commemorated at SOS’s Brighter Days Gala at Longfellows, where the “Help, Hope, Humanity” award will be presented to members of the community that have contributed to SOS’s success and progress over the years.
One of the awardees is former mayor Ken Klotz, who has been involved with SOS since almost the very beginning. Klotz has a unique prospective on the 25 year anniversary of SOS – his involvement in the growth of the organization for over two decades makes him the ideal witness to SOS’s development and achievements.
“What has been really remarkable for me is to see how the services of the shelter have expanded to meet the needs of the community,” said Klotz, who started working with SOS as a member of their board in the early 90’s. “It was small scale in the beginning. Now, if you go to the gala, it fills Longfellows. The community acceptance and support of it is just really striking to me when I look back over the years.”
SOS began at St. Clements Church in January 1992 with just six beds after members of the community and the church decided they had the power to help those who live on the streets. Later that year, SOS moved to a trailer home on East Beekman Street, which had eight available beds.
“I volunteered for overnights there at that point,” said Klotz in regards to the location on East Beekman. “It was an interesting experience. It was a small space, and when it was filled it was claustrophobic.”
Klotz continued helping SOS as a volunteer and in 1995 was able to help even more after getting elected to the city council. In 1997, when SOS did not finish constructing their building at 14 Walworth Street on time, the grant they were supposed to receive from the state was in danger of being pulled. Since it was being built on a city lot, Klotz stepped in, and through the city council and fellow colleagues, was able to steer the grant through. “I was in a position to do something about it,” he said.
Furthermore, Klotz used his position as mayor from 2000 to 2003 as a platform for raising awareness to homelessness. “You have an audience because people are always asking your opinion when you represent the city, so you can bring attention to issues you think are important,” he said. “I want people to know that street life is not attractive. These are not people that want to live miserable lives.”
After serving his two terms as mayor, Klotz was approached by SOS once again in 2006 to be a part of an advisory committee that was focusing on development and fundraising. He has now been on the committee for eight years.
In the last 25 years, SOS has grown and expanded its services exponentially. Starting at just six beds at St. Clements, SOS’s shelters can now house up to 35 men and women at once. SOS has expanded its outreach to local motels and the streets, as well as providing adult and youth drop-in centers for hot meals and showers. Code Blue, which began in 2013, offers shelter for homeless individuals during harsh weather conditions. SOS uses the term “continuum of care” as part of their mission – in other words, not only providing short-term help, but also long-term support for finding housing, jobs and education.
“I think Saratoga Springs, for a small city, has handled this difficult problem as well as you could imagine a city responding,” said Klotz. “We have really good leadership, members of the community that step up, and an enormous number of volunteers. These are the people that are really putting in the work and hours because they don’t think this should be a place where people die on the streets. To me, that says volumes about our community and what a wonderful community it is to live in.”
When asked how he felt about getting the “Help, Hope, Humanity” award, Klotz responded: “I really was floored by it because there are probably 300 people more deserving than I am. I just know how dependent the shelter is on the committed volunteer efforts so many people in the community give to it. I’m just a volunteer like anybody else.”
Klotz will be honored at the Brighter Days Gala on April 7, along with Mark Bertrand, founder of The Giving Circle, and Vincent, Patty, Ronald and Michele Riggi for their philanthropy toward SOS. Tickets to the gala are $100 and proceeds will benefit the over 1,000 men and women SOS helps each year. For more information about Shelters of Saratoga, and to make reservations for the Brighter Days Gala, visit sheltersofsaratoga.org.
- To Speak At Skidmore Next Monday Evening
“ ‘Cause there'll be hard times,
Lord those hard times -
Who knows better than I?”
-- Ray Charles
SARATOGA SPRINGS – He was dealt a losing hand from the beginning.
Then, for a long time, by his own admission, he made it a lot worse.
Kelvin Davis doesn’t shrink from his past, which is not a pretty picture. Scarce, stolen moments of happiness, perhaps, spread too thin over five decades of hell.
Born in Brooklyn, Bedford-Stuyvesant specifically, with documented abuse throughout his formative years. But on February 15, 1987 at age 24, it got worse for Kelvin.
A whole lot worse.
The facts are not in dispute, by Kelvin or anyone else. He was convicted of first-degree manslaughter. An official NY Appellate Court record read as follows:
“In the early morning hours of February 15, 1987, two private security guards were summoned to an apartment at the Martinique Hotel by residents complaining of a loud argument between defendant and his wife. One of the guards argued and grappled with defendant, at one point holding him against the floor in an attempt to calm defendant down. After defendant was released, and as the guards were leaving, defendant grabbed a sawed-off shotgun which he kept in his apartment and, at close range, shot and killed the security guard, who in defendant’s mind had “disrespected” him.
Defendant does not challenge his guilt of either manslaughter or possession of a weapon.
-Source: 174 A.D.2d 369 (1991) -The People of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Kelvin Davis, Also Known as Kelvin Bowens, Appellant Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, First Department.
It is important to note that Kelvin was acquitted on the more serious charge of second-degree murder.
But how much does your life have to sink where you can take solace in that kind of hair-splitting?
And so Kelvin went down. Down hard.
He entered the ‘land of no hope’ – no other way to put it. His first and only foray into the penal system led him to be incarcerated in Ossining (Sing Sing), Attica and a three-year solitary confinement stretch at Elmira. One admittedly horrific crime led to one squandered lifetime.
When he emerged from prison, Kelvin was nearly 50 years old, and had spent more than half his life in such places.
He has a trailer waiting for him in Greenfield Center that his son provided, but as part of his many parole conditions, (which can extend as far as 2030), Kelvin has to live at Shelters of Saratoga (SOS), hold down gainful employment and a host of other conditions.
He credits his SOS caseworker, Ginny Stoliker, with helping him to find a job at Quad Graphics in just eight days, and Kathleen DiCarlo, an instructor at John Paolo’s Beauty Institute with taking an interest in him. Kelvin expects to receive his cosmetologist license before Labor Day.
So far, so good as far as that goes. What is not required by parole, but comes from inside Kelvin Davis’ spirit is the desire to share his journey – but he’s no role model, and intends to say so. “I have 24 years of reasoning,” he said, “why you don’t make decisions like I did on February 15, 1987.”
Kelvin will share and expand that message at a special lecture at Skidmore College’s Emerson Auditorium on Monday, April 14 at 6 p.m. The presentation is free and open to the public.
He has many stories of relentless horror, of inhumanity and pain. He shared some vignettes that were raw, gritty and terrifying. It would be an injustice to try and replicate them in print. Better to hear them directly. He does promise that everyone will “…laugh a bit, weep a bit more, but learn a lot.”
In our visit, he called it ‘paying it forward,’ which is fairly popular jargon these days, but subject to a variety of meanings. I asked him for some amplification as to what that plainly meant to him.
He stared out the window. Looking through slats that cast a horizontal shadow, left to right across his face in the dwindling sunlight.
For decades, that shadow was vertical, from bars that extended up and down. Except with a lot less sunlight and much darker shadows. “For me, it’s the only way I know to give back.” Kelvin said.
He looked straight at me and said, “I want to share the things I’ve learned in the hope that somebody will not have to go through what I did.”
“If I can get even one person to listen, then for me it will be mission accomplished.”
6 p.m. Monday, April 14
Presented by Bene-Faction and Skidmo’ Daily
Refreshments provided by Esperanto
Helping Hope Take Flight
Shelters of Saratoga's 4th Annual Gala
SARATOGA SPRINGS –Join Shelters of Saratoga at their2014 annual gala on Thursday, April 3, from 6-9 pm, as they celebrate the ways they are "Helping Hope Take Flight.” The Event will be held at Longfellows Restaurant, 500 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs.
Shelters of Saratoga, the only homeless men's and women's shelter in the Greater Saratoga Region, serves hundreds of homeless annually with the provision of shelter, food, clothing, and case management services, which includes assistance with employment, transportation and housing. Recent service additions have included mobile outreach to youth, chronically homeless individuals, and families and individuals lodged in area motels.
Due to the growing demand for services, SOS relies heavily on the community’s generosity to volunteer, fundraise and provide financial assistance. Learn how you can get involved at: http://www.sheltersofsaratoga.org
Don’t Drop Out – Drop In!
SOS Youth Outreach Drop-In Center Provides Services For Young Adults In Need
SARATOGA SPRINGS— The Shelters of Saratoga (SOS) Youth Outreach Drop-in Center at 20 Walworth Street is completing its fourth month of operation and is making an impact in a variety of ways.
The Drop-in Center, which is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., serves an important demographic: young adults, ages 16 to 21. The services provided are diverse and can make a difference on both the quality of a young person’s day-to-day life as well as providing increased potential for their futures.
On any given day, the clients and their individual needs determine the services provided. As SOS Youth Outreach Coordinator and Case Manager Crystal Swinton puts it:
“You never know what the flavor of the day will be.”
But the Drop-in Center appears quite ready for anything.
A new client, or first-time visitor might be very surprised by the array of services available here. The basic necessities we often take for granted, such as a shower or laundry facility with materials provided, or a healthy lunch or snack is always available (provided weekly from Sweet Mimi’s Café on Phila Street. Two volunteers from St. Peters youth group coordinate this: Tori Los and Max Liebers.)
But a client can also get educational help or job search guidance including resume writing assistance, all designed to improve a client’s work readiness. Those without a physical address can utilize the SOS P.O. Box. A computer and printer are available with Internet access. Once a week, Siobahn A’Hearn, a nutrition program educator from Cornell Cooperative Extension’s “Eat Smart New York” program is in-house to provide nourishment guidance and techniques. Public health nurses visit regularly also.
“The small group of volunteers we have are extremely resourceful,” Ms. Swinton notes, “We are fortunate to have most everything we need.” Although, she notes that there is an ongoing need for bottled water (should someone wish to drop off a case or two during the week, please note that it should be clearly marked for the youth drop-in center so it gets to the right destination.) Ms. Swinton cited one need for consistent transportation down to the CAPTAIN Youth and Family Center in Clifton Park twice a week so that clients could take advantage of CAPTAIN’s high school diploma equivalency programs.
There are also outreach activities to stimulate the mind and body, said Ms. Swinton, such as a recent rock-climbing trip, with other off-site activities planned as the weather brightens.
But it is obvious that there is never a day with anything less than a warm and sunny atmosphere, combined with several rays of hope, on any day one visits the Youth Drop-In Center. Crystal Swinton, her volunteers and the SOS staff make sure of that.
To learn more about the services at the SOS Youth Drop-in Center, contact Crystal Swinton at (518) 321-8239.
Becoming Homeless in Saratoga Springs
By Barry Potoker
For Saratoga Today
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Barry Potoker, Executive Director of Saratoga Builders Association, was a participant in “A Day Without A Home” on Wednesday, November 20 sponsored by the Saratoga County Housing Committee which commemorated Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week. He was given the profile of “Eric” and went through the intake process at the Shelters of Saratoga (SOS). This is his account:
I never thought that it could ever happen to me, but it did. It was a surreal experience and happened so fast. My girlfriend of several years kicked me out of her house with just the clothes on my back. I had no where to go or live. I had officially become homeless.
My name is Eric and I’m 27. I do have a decent job at a restaurant working for minimum wage and unfortunately I have been battling chronic bronchitis for many years. Needless to say, I have no health insurance. My situation felt desperate and I had nowhere to turn. Embarrassed and ashamed, I showed up at the Shelters of Saratoga for help.
I was welcomed by a reassuring woman at the front desk and immediately turned over to a case worker. His name was Graham. In my uneasy state, he was encouraging, knowledgeable and supportive. We spent about a half hour reviewing the rules of the Shelter, filling out some paperwork, and most importantly talking about all the resources at my disposal to help get me back on my feet in 60 days or less. A sense of hope and relief came over me as I was accepted into this temporary home.
Because I came to the Shelter, many services from other organizations and agencies were now available to me. I was eligible to have my bronchitis treated at the Saratoga Community Health Center run by Saratoga Hospital. I received a complimentary three-month membership to the YMCA. In addition, I was given a $50 certificate to obtain some more clothes at Treasures. If I had been a veteran, the Saratoga County RPC was ready to assist me. The critical element would be the ongoing work with my case worker to help me find an affordable apartment and look for a better job if I so desired. Graham showed me around the house, the community computer, living room, and the kitchen where all the folks staying at the Shelter cook for themselves. He then took me to my small, but comfortable room with bunk beds, which I will share with three others in transition situations similar to mine. This will be my place to begin anew. On the way however, we did make a stop at a closet brimming with clothes, for me to pick out some extra things to wear. I was so very fortunate to be in a caring, safe place to help me get through this difficult and scary time in my life.
My time taking part in “A Day Without A Home” was both enlightening and worthwhile. Not only did I feel the despair and helplessness of being alone without a home, but I was introduced to a world of unknowns and possibilities for those in need. Yes, my awareness of this unfamiliar topic (to me) was truly enriched.
There was an evening wrap-up event at the Saratoga Arts Center focused on those who volunteered to participate in this special day. They each spoke of their personal “homeless” experiences and provided some meaningful insights of the various agencies. The Skidmore College Dance Improvisation class even performed a demonstration of abstract emotions, thoughts and ideas relative to homelessness and the associated challenges. It was excellent and moving to say the least. And to top it off, we had a homeless couple right from the street join us during the event. They sat in the crowd listening to us talk about the subject matter, jumping in from time to time. It was an incredibly sad yet sobering night for us all.
On a final note, as I was leaving the Shelters of Saratoga, something happened that was quite profound for me. I passed a man that attended high school with me entering the Shelter. He did not look well, but I still recognized him. He not only appeared homeless but the receptionist had already called 911 to get an ambulance for him. The day certainly had a personal impact on me.