Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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Thursday, 03 November 2022 14:03

Code Blue Emergency Shelter Now Open Nightly

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city-based Code Blue winter emergency shelter on Adelphi Street is now open every night, Shelters of Saratoga announced Oct. 26. 

The venue will provide nightly shelter from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. until April 2023. 

Additionally, on days when the temperature drops below 32 degrees, daytime respite with a navigation center where community partner agencies provide client services will be available. Services this winter have expanded to include case management, which provides the means for guests to move out of homelessness.

The building which houses the shelter, located just off South Broadway, is leased through April 30, 2023 at a cost of $8,000 per month. 

Plans were unveiled in October to site a permanent 24/7 year-round shelter on city-owned property at the soon-to-be-vacated Senior Center on Williams Street. Proposals call for the development of the low barrier shelter and navigation center to be operational in early 2023. 

The city expressed interest in also pursuing the possibility of constructing about 40 affordable housing apartments in an adjacent space on the parcel that would assist residents in their transitioning process - a continuum of care with the ultimate goal of helping people move from homelessness to sustained housing on their own.         

SARATOGA SPRINGS — It is story was born in Saratoga a long time in-the-making that will make its landing in living color in the Spa City this month.

IT is called “The Supernatural Strings of Vampwyre,” a 32-page comic from the mind of Zack Lynch, launching the first book of what he hopes will be a quarterly publication with his new enterprise Blue Shack Comics. 

“The first time I ever got to go to a comic shop was on Broadway (in Saratoga Springs). My mom took me and it was like a magic portal,” says Lynch, who subsequently grew up reading ‘Conan’ and ‘X-Men’ -  “the two mainstays I read as a kid without fail, and after that pretty much everything Marvel put out.”

By the 1990s, Lynch began working for comic book companies, first as an intern and later graduating to doing coloring and production design. “Comics have been a part of my life forever, since I was a kid, and it’s been in my career wheelhouse for the past 30 years now,” he says. 

Earlier this year, he assembled a creative team in anticipation of launching a local comic book company and estimates approximately 50 brainstorming meetings have been held at Desperate Annie’s on Caroline Street – “that has been quite a creation hub for us” - since May. 

“I hired a team of professionals and knowing how every position works really helps. It takes about six people to put together a comic. You’ve got your basic creator – who comes up with the idea; your writer; you have to do sketches to get an idea of what the book is going to look like, then it goes to a penciller, an inker, a colorist and a letterer,” Lynch explains.  “Then all of that comes back to me for design layout and printing.”

The end result is Blue Shack Comics’ first issue: The Supernatural Strings of Vampwyre – a kid-friendly story about an AI rock star who deals with the experiences that all humans experience, Lynch says, from growing up, to figuring out who and what we are. 

Book 1 is on its way back from the printers. Book 2 begins production next month and is slated for release in the spring. The hope is to release a new book on a quarterly basis. Lynch – who wears the title of creator, writer and editor of the book, also launched a Kickstarter campaign. 

“I am the financier, and it is costly, but an interesting part is that it’s also being financed by old classic comics which are now exceptionally valuable. I have quite a large comic collection, and for this book I’m selling comics to make a comic,” Lynch says. 

“The Supernatural Strings of Vampwyre” is slated to make its premiere Nov. 12-13, during Comic Con at the Saratoga Springs City Center. It will also be available at the website: vampwyre.com, where more information about the publication may be found. 

“The Supernatural Strings of Vampwyre.” Creator & Writer - Zack Lynch; Artistic Concept Designer - Kim Vincent Harris; Pencils - Jason Baroody; Inks - Mark McKenna; Colors - Ross Campbell; Letters - Dezi Sienty; Graphic Design - Tyrus Christiana. 32 pages, color, $6. Go to: vampwyre.com. 

Thursday, 27 October 2022 13:58

Congressman Tours Wilton Food Pantry

WILTON — One dozen identical bottles of Italian dressing stand atop the shelves. Each bears a label-faced portrait of green rolling hills and olive and cypress trees on a blue-sky day. It is a lush panorama of a province in some other sunny place, standing in contrast to the landscape of vanilla shelves that run down the aisles inside the room. 

“Everything you see on the shelves here will be gone within the month - easily,” says Paula Schmid, president of the board of directors at the Wilton Food Pantry. 

“These shelves were almost bare, but we had a 1,000-pound food bank delivery yesterday morning after we had a 1,500-pound Hoffman’s Car Wash food drive,” she says, framed by rows of hot sauce and mayonnaise, cold brew coffee and chicken soup, cans filled with chili, pear halves, diced tomatoes, and boxes of pancake mix, corn flakes, and mac ’n’ cheese.

Six volunteers spent a good part of the past two days sorting through the incoming goods, checking expiration dates and ensuring the packaging is intact. “Still, there are some gaps on our shelves,” Schmid says. “We’re getting 1,000 pounds of food from the Food Bank almost every week and going through it in a week.”

On this day, Congressman Paul Tonko is touring the Wilton Food Pantry. He is accompanied by Saratoga County Administrator Steve Bulger, and Wilton Food Pantry Director of Operations Peter Maynard. 

In June, the pantry was awarded $50,000 from Saratoga County’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation, helping the pantry to cover most of its operating costs for this year, and allowing the organization to continue to provide critical service to food insecure residents of Northern Saratoga County.

In all, Saratoga County received approximately $44.65 million in ARPA monies since the Federal Government passed the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package in March 2021. Locally, 20th District Congressman Paul Tonko voted in favor of the economic stimulus package.

Tonko toured the Ballard Road food pantry as part of a series of visits by the congressman this month to sites across the Capital Region to highlight how the ARPA funds he helped deliver are working for families and local communities.

The Wilton Food Pantry began organizing volunteers to provide an emergency food supply to low-income residents a decade ago. It serves residents beyond its geographical town borders and extends to Northern Saratoga County. 

Patron data shows a 35% increase in community need this year over last. 

2021: 281 families, 623 individuals, 1,851 visits and 32,904 meals provided.

2022: 367 families, 868 individuals, 2,448 visits and 44,566 meals provided.

Goods are mainly secured from three sources.  Items are purchased from the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York in Latham, use-by-that-day items are picked up at Hannaford (for which the market receives a tax credit), and community fund drives. 

“The Northeastern Regional Food Bank is our primary source; we pay for it, but we pay only 16-cents a pound. So for donations, we would actually prefer to have money because we can buy the things we need on our shelves, “Schmid said. “The way the food bank values things is that each pound of food is worth $1.79 that we hand out. What we’re actually paying for that is 16 cents, so it’s like a ten-times factor.”

The food pantry works with approximately 50 volunteers who pick up goods at the market, interact with the public, or work on backroom inventory. 

“The hunger and hurt that’s out there for a lot of families is not easily seen, so I think it’s good for the region to have that. It’s important,” Tonko said.

The annual budget is $75,000 which covers rental of the space and two part-time paid employees. Due to the pandemic, the organization was unable to host its annual fundraising event for two consecutive years. Those events usually raise about $25,000 each year. During 2020 and 2021 an outpouring of donations from the community helped the food pantry stay afloat, the $50,000 COVID non-profit grant is assisting the organization this year. 

“It’s important to have this set up and to be able to serve people. With one in five kids in the congressional district living in food insecurity, there’s a need out there, so you and your volunteers are making a major effort,” said Tonko, adding he was thankful the county Board of Supervisors directed some of federal rescue plan money it received to the food pantry. 

“With the post-COVID response, rebuilding the economy is important - and this is part of it. This is stabilizing households and families,” Tonko said. “There is an all-out effort to conquer hunger. And it’s a great challenge. Thank goodness there are operations like this. By the grace of God anyone can be in this situation, so it serves all of us.” 

For more information about resident registration and more about the Wilton Food Pantry, go to: wiltonfoodpantry.org

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Saratoga County Board of Elections and the city of Saratoga Springs announced the Recreation Center at 15 Vanderbilt Ave. will serve as an early voting site for the 2022 General Election. 

The Saratoga County Board of Elections’ other early voting sites include Wilton Gavin Park on Lewis Road; Greenfield Firehouse #1 in Greenfield Center; the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Library on Moe Road in Clifton Park; and the Board of Elections office on West High Street in Ballston Spa. 

All voters may vote at any poll site. 

On the ballot for voters in the Saratoga region: Governor and Lt. Gov; Comptroller; Attorney General; U.S. Senator; State Supreme Court Justice; 20th Congressional District; 44th State Sen. District; 113th Assembly District; District Attorney; Treasurer; Family Court Judge. 

Specific to the city of Saratoga Springs: An election to fill the remainder of the term for DPW Commissioner. That term goes through the calendar year 2023. 

There are just over 168,000 active registered voters in Saratoga County, according to the New York State Board of Elections. That party affiliation includes: just under 50,000 registered Democrats, just over 61,000 Republicans, and nearly 45,000 “blank” voters. 

Voters who cast a ballot during the early voting period will not be allowed to vote on Election Day, Nov.  8. Voters who have been issued an absentee ballot are not permitted to vote on the voting machines, but may be issued an affidavit ballot. 

Hours for voting:

Saturday, Oct. 29: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

Sunday, Oct. 30: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

Monday, Oct. 31: 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. 

Tuesday, Nov. 1: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

Wednesday, Nov. 2: 12 – 8 p.m. 

Thursday, Nov. 3: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

Friday, Nov. 4: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

Saturday, Nov. 5: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

Sunday, Nov. 6: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

For more information, call the Saratoga County Board of Elections at 518-885-2249, or Stacy Connors, Deputy Commissioner of Accounts, City of Saratoga Springs at 518-587-3550 x2543.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Liberty Affordable Housing Inc., of Rome, NY, is applying for a zoning map amendment in its effort to develop approximately 200 apartments in two, four-story structures on a portion of a wooded 30-acre lot on the corner of Jefferson Street and Crescent Avenue. 

The apartments would be geared toward “employees such as teachers, young professionals, nurses, hospitality industry, firefighters and police,” according to documents filed with the city. 

Regarding residents, the project targets 60-80% of the Average Median Income (that median family income in the region is $106,000). To qualify to apply for an apartment at Liberty Saratoga the tenant/household verified income would range from just over $44,500 to nearly $85,000, and points to $900- $1,120 costs for a studio, $995-$1,200 for one-bedroom, and $1,200-$1,650 for two-bedroom apartments. 

In order for the project to become a reality, an amendment is necessary to modify the current zoning from low density rural residential, or RR, to UR-4 – which accommodates family residential uses. 

The application is one of three under consideration at this week’s meeting of the Saratoga Springs Planning Board. Other applications under consideration include: Excelsior Avenue Apartments - Site plan review of a proposed workforce housing project and associated site work; 131 Excelsior North Spring Run - Special Use Permit, Consideration of coordinated SEQRA review for a proposed 102-unit multi-family residential project.

One possible consent agenda item is an AgroChem Site Plan Extension, with a proposed extension of a previously approved site plan for a 16,000 square foot warehouse expansion in the Industrial general district.

Liberty_apartments.png

Thursday, 27 October 2022 13:39

Notebook: Saratoga County Board of Supervisors

BALLSTON SPA — The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors held its monthly meeting on Oct. 18 at the county complex in Ballston Spa. The county board operating budget in 2022 is $381 million. 

The following were among the resolutions approved on Oct. 18: 

• The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors approved the pursuit of an agreement with Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. of Albany for up to $819,000 to provide engineering services for the design, survey work, permitting and rights of way acquisition for the proposed extension of the Zim Smith North Trail from Oak Street in the Town of Ballston to Saratoga Spa State Park. This follows the Board’s acceptance of $500,000 in grant funding in its approval of the Zim Smith North Extension. 

• The Board authorized the payment of just over $88,000 to Saratoga Economic Development Corporation as the third quarter 2022 payment to SEDC, which provides marketing services for the county at an annual cost of up to $225,000. 

• The Board authorized the payment of over $118,000 to 12 municipalities regarding its 2022 Trails Grant Program.
These include: 

City of Saratoga Springs: The amount of $10,000 to be applied towards the Saratoga Springs Blodgett Park Blueway Trail Improvements, including the creation of parallel street parking dedicated to the park, to place fresh stone dust on the trail and to place new signage for the City’s access to the Kayaderosseras Creek-Fish Creek Greenway.

Town of Greenfield: The amount of $10,000 towards the Brookhaven Park Trail. Improvement to include the improvement of a 0.5-mile portion of the Brookhaven Trail by placing asphalt surface.

Town of Malta: The amount of $8,653 towards the Malta Nature Preserve Trail Restoration to include the restoration of approximately 2,500 linear feet of trail by restoring the trail with crusher run. 

Town of Moreau: The amount of $10,000 towards the Scenic Hudson River/Big Bend Trail Phase I Design and Expansion to include the engagement engineering services for site and topographic survey, archaeological services, grant administration services and construction administration services. 

Town of Saratoga: The amount of $10,000 towards the Saratoga Boat Launch Improvements Phase II towards the improvements of the boat launch including a kayak/canoe launch, additional picnic tables, BBQ grills, bike rack, picnic shelter and improved parking and access along with added landscaping and signage.

Town of Wilton: The amount of $10,000 towards Southeast Wilton Trail Restoration and Feasibility Study to include repair of a deteriorated boardwalk and trailhead improvements on Neilmann parcel and a feasibility study to connect trails within Edie Road and Ruggles Road area.

Note each municipality provide matching funds or services in-kind. 

GLENS FALLS — The Adirondack Theatre Festival staged its annual film festival Oct. 13 with a regional premiere of a short documentary featuring the band Blondie performing a culturally path-breaking concert in Cuba in 2019. 

The opening night screening of “Blondie: Vivir en la Habana” staged at the Charles R. Wood Theater and included a Q&A between ATF Producing Artistic Director Miriam Weisfeld and the film’s director Rob Roth. 

“I realized afterwards how these cultural exchanges are really important,” said Roth, regarding the band’s concert, which was part of an official cultural exchange between Havana and New York City. “It was perfect timing, because the previous administration had opened up a dialogue with Cuba and we just made it, because the next administration just shut it all down.” 

It was Blondie co-founder and guitarist Chris Stein who was the driving force behind the journey. “He would tell the manager: ‘Just get us to Cuba. Just get us to Cuba,’” Roth said. Ironically, Stein wasn’t ultimately able to make the trek, due to illness. 

Blondie burst out of the Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s scene in downtown Manhattan in the mid-70s with their self-titled debut (most notably featuring the songs “X Offender,” and “Rip Her To Shreds”), and its follow-up LP ‘Plastic Letters.’ It was their third release, ‘Parallel Lines,’ that gained them national attention with the hit “Heart of Glass” in 1979 – and it is from this period and on into the ‘80s with the subsequent hit songs “Rapture” and “The Tide Is High” that the 18-minute documentary focuses its soundtrack. 

“I didn’t really know how I was going to shoot in a communist country. It just came to me one day: I’m going to shoot it on film, 8mm and 16mm. And I think that had a much more deep effect, because it’s almost like a lens of time that they’re stuck in, and also the lens of what I call metaphysical; the magic happening around them,” said Roth, adding that he first struck up a friendship with Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry during the 1990s, when they both attended weekly Tuesday night parties at Jackie 60 nightclub in New York City’s meatpacking district. 

“Only one time did my cameraman have a problem with officials – I don’t even know who they were, but they came out of nowhere. We were shooting on the street and the camera moved to what I think was a government building of some sort, and they were there like - that!” said Roth, snapping his fingers together for emphasis.  “But, they were pretty cool about it. We just had to not shoot that building. I don’t know what the building was. And I don’t even want to know what it was,” he said with a laugh. 

Roth - a longtime collaborator with Blondie, has also worked on projects with David Bowie, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna, among others. 

There was initial interest in using some archival footage tracing the band’s origins to New York City in the ‘70s, but Harry wasn’t particularly keen to the idea. “She doesn’t like to go to the past a lot. I was creative director of her memoir ‘Face It,’ and it was like pulling teeth,” he laughed. “She doesn’t like to go back. And it’s funny because we keep toying with this idea of me directing a film about her - so that would be even harder!” 

Just before the entourage’s landing in Cuba, there were expressed concerns about whether the residents of the communist country would even have had the ability to know who the band was.    

“While we were going there, Debbie and I were discussing whether they even knew the music,” Roth recalled. “When I was shooting, at one point there was a balcony and a family – from the grandparents down to the grandchildren and: they were all singing. It was ‘Heart of Glass,’ or ‘The Tide is High.’ And they knew it. It was clear. The music had gotten there.”

“Blondie: Vivir en la Habana,” had its North American premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2021. The Adirondack Film Festival, presented by ATF for the seventh year, ran Oct. 13-15 and presented its programming in a hybrid mode - both in-person and online – with live screenings at the Charles R. Wood Theater and Crandall Library in downtown Glens Falls. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS – On that blue-sky morning in September 2001, Alex Contreras was in New York City to bury his dad.

“I went to the church and I went to the funeral. On September 11, the city was in chaos. It was bizarre,” recalls Contreras, who grew up in Washington Heights on the north end of Manhattan as the twin towers of the World Trade Center towers were being built, anchoring the island’s southern end.

“I remember going there on a class trip when I was a kid, standing in front of those buildings and thinking: that’s impossible. They looked like they reached up into the sky,” he said.

An amateur photographer with skills as a firefighter and experience in construction, Contreras was filled with angst as he watched the smoke rising above downtown Manhattan on Sept. 11. “I had to do something,” he said. At midnight, he made his way to Ground Zero, donned gear he borrowed from members of the New York Fire Department and went to work.

“I stayed there for the next five days,” Contreras said. “I didn’t want to leave. I went there to help search for people who were alive – but, that didn’t happen. When I walked away after five days, I had a feeling of failure.”  

During a visit to a nearby drug store to buy saline solution to clean his contact lenses, Contreras purchased a disposable camera. He said taking pictures initially seemed a grotesque thing to do, but a conversation with his teenage son, who was back home in Florida, convinced him otherwise. “He said, ‘Dad, the whole world is watching you guys.’ I felt we were their only hope.” 

Contreras returned to Ground Zero and captured 37 images over a five-day period immediately following the attack. Approximately half those images will be displayed for the first time in New York on Sunday at the Saratoga Springs 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony.  Renowned locally based photographer Lawrence White, who operated a gallery in lower Manhattan in 2001, will showcase a series of his images taken on Sept. 11 at the ceremony as well.

 “I’ll have images before and during the attacks and Alex has Ground Zero itself, so It will go full cycle, as the sculpture does,” White said.

The sculpture, which represents a creative metamorphosis and the healing power of art to transcend grief and sorrow was crafted from five pieces of World Trade Center steel by artists John Van Alstine and Noah Savett. One beam is from the south tower and four pieces are from the north tower, including a core beam that stood on the 108th floor. The sculpture stands about 25 feet tall, weighs 14 tons and was permanently sited - after much public debate - at High Rock Park in 2012.

Fifteen years after the attack, the memories of that blue-sky morning in September 2011 continue to haunt.  “You know how they say: That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? No. That which doesn’t kill you scars you for life,” White said. “You’re affected.”

“There was a constant siren in your head; like having an accident and afterwards your horn just keeps sounding, on and on and on,” said Contreras, recalling his five days at Ground Zero. “It still is emotional. Even right now I’m ready to break down and cry. But, I didn’t realize how important those pictures would be. They became a big part of my healing.”

 The Saratoga Springs Remembrance Ceremony will be staged at the 9/11 memorial in High Rock Park, beginning at 8:35 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11. Local musician Rick Bolton will perform the national anthem, Rabbi Jonathan Rubenstein will deliver the invocation, and retired Army Col. Don Britten will be the keynote speaker. Alex Contreras and Lawrence White both plan to attend the ceremony.  

BALLSTON – Members of the locally based Veterans & Community Housing Coalition (VCHC) will stand in front of the town of Ballston Planning Board on Wednesday Oct. 26 in the hope of securing the go-ahead to develop transitional housing for Veteran moms and their children. 

If approved, it will be the first facility of its kind in New York, according to VCHC.  It is an idea born out of a conversation in a West Ave. eatery three years ago when Veterans Ball Honorary Chair Ray O'Conor, Tiffany Orner – a veteran of the Air Force, and Cheryl Hage-Perez - who had served as executive director of VCHC, shared a conversation during breakfast at Shirley’s Restaurant.   

“We were talking about women who come out of military service who have children. If they’re struggling in any way making the transition from military to civilian life, they have few options,” O’Conor recalled. 

Moms are still a rarity in the military. Women make up 16 percent of enlisted forces and 19 percent of the officer corps, and a minority of those women have children under 18, according to a November 2020 article “The ‘Gut Wrenching’ Sacrifice of Military Moms,” written by Jessica Grose and published in the New York Times. 

“Option one is to get a voucher from the VA and go off and find an apartment someplace and fend for themselves and their children - and they don’t necessarily have access to services they may need if they’re suffering from anything from PTSD, to sexual trauma in the military, or if they’re just trying to find a job,” O’Conor said. “Or, if they want to go to a place like Guardian House (for female veterans) they could give their children up to a family member if there is one willing to do that or put their children in foster care to get the services they need.”

Tasked with providing housing and support services to all homeless military veterans, VCHC had opened the transitional housing program Vet House for homeless male veterans on Church Avenue in Ballston Spa.  More recently, it opened Guardian House, located nearby on Saratoga Road, to serve homeless female veterans. VCHC points out that while homeless women veterans face the same issues as the male veterans, a large percentage are additionally living with the pain of military sexual trauma. 

“As we sat there at breakfast, we said, ‘Gee, we ought to build a place where these veteran moms and their kids could live while they’re making their transition from military to civilian life. So, that was the start of it,” O’Conor said. 

They began to explore options to develop housing atop the four acres of land where Guardian House is sited and VCHC initiated a grassroots fundraising campaign, partnering with businesses, individuals, community groups and leaders. That needed funding, estimated at about $700,000 is now nearly all in place. Plans call for the construction of a duplex that will serve as transitional housing for veteran moms and their children.  It will be called Foreverly House – named after the song “Foreverly,” written by local singer-songwriter Jeff Brisbin. 

“That was Cheryl (Hage-Perez’) idea,” says O’Conor. “I knew who Jeff Brisbin was from his performing in different venues in this area but never formally met him.” O’Conor was working on a screen adaptation of his book “She Called Him Raymond,” published in 2015. A random meeting at a Broadway eatery introduced O’Conor and Brisbin to one another. 

“I happened to be at Druthers in Saratoga Springs with my family. Jeff came over and said: Hey, are you Ray O’Conor – the guy who wrote that book ‘She Called Him Raymond’? Jeff introduced himself and said, I’ve written a song, the melody and lyrics fit your book hand-in-glove. Can I send it to you?” O’Conor said. “It’s beautiful song and he was absolutely right, the song and lyrics – a perfect fit.“  O’Conor went on to write his award-winning screenplay with the title: Foreverly The Movie – a screenplay adaptation of “She Called Him Raymond.”       

Pending this week’s town approval, VCHC hopes to break ground in December – weather permitting – and to have a fully operational Foreverly House in 2023.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — City Mayor Ron Kim announced a comprehensive initiative this week to address the city’s homelessness. The plan would site a permanent 24/7 year-round shelter at the soon-to-be-vacated Senior Center on Williams Street and may potentially add a second building to house people transitioning through a continuum of care.     

It is a plan city and county officials began discussing earlier this year. The search for a permanent shelter site has been ongoing for nearly a decade. 

Plans call for the development of a permanent low barrier shelter and navigation center in early 2023. The location is the longtime home of the Saratoga Senior Center, a structure developed by the city on city-owned property in the 1970s. The Senior Center is relocating to 290 West Ave. 

The hope is that when it becomes fully operational, that permanently sited “Code Blue” shelter could extend its operations to 24/7 year-round. The city expressed interest in also pursuing the possibility of adding about 40 affordable housing apartments in an adjacent space on the parcel that would assist residents in their transitioning process - a continuum of care with the ultimate goal of helping people move from homelessness to sustained housing on their own.        

The specific definition of a “low barrier shelter” and of a “navigation center” vary from state-to-state. 

Recent legislation in California details “navigation centers” as providing temporary room and board while case managers work to connect homeless individuals and families to income, public benefits, health services and permanent housing or other shelter. 

Meanwhile, having a “low barrier” points to things such as eliminating curfews and not requiring background checks, sobriety or mandatory treatment. It is not clear at this time whether any of these points would be put in effect in Saratoga Springs. 

Rules and restrictions common to shelters - such as those barriers to entry - can make shelter services inaccessible to those in need by keeping vulnerable individuals and families from accessing the shelters, according to a 45-page report published by Seattle University School of Law in 2016 entitled “Shut Out: How Barriers Often Prevent Meaningful Access to Emergency Shelter.” 

“In small communities or communities with few shelter options, no tolerance policies effectively keep those struggling with substance abuse outside,” according to the report. 

On the financing side, Ed and Lisa Mitzen have pledged to pay the costs to revamp 5 Williams St. so that it can serve the needs of the homeless population; William Dake of Stewart’s Stores donated $3 million dollars to support the construction of the senior citizens’ new home in conjunction with the rehabilitation and expansion of the Saratoga YMCA. That relocation is anticipated to take place in early 2023, freeing up the current Senior Center space. 

“Code Blue” shelter and shelter services are provided to the homeless community whenever inclement winter weather temperatures are at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, inclusive of National Weather Service calculations for windchill. The current lease for the temporary Code Blue shelter on Adelphi Street runs through April 30, 2023 at a cost of $8,000 per month. The city is looking to work with the county to come up with about $65,000 to extend the current emergency shelter hours and season on Adelphi Street. 

Motivated to action in the wake of the death of a city woman exposed to a winter’s elements on a December night in 2013, a temporary homeless emergency shelter was launched in Saratoga Springs that Christmas Eve at St. Peter’s Parish Center. A series of temporary winter shelters sited at a variety of venues across town followed: the Salvation Army building west of Broadway, Soul Saving Station Church east of Broadway, and the building at 4 Adelphi St., among them. 

A permanent shelter site was thought to be secured in 2017 after local business owner Ed Mitzen offered to pay the costs of a new Code Blue homeless shelter to be built on Shelters of Saratoga property on Walworth Street. Initial plans call for a two-story building with a large kitchen, laundry room, men’s and women’s sleeping rooms, multiple showers and bathrooms, a large storage area for donated food and clothing, and a small Code Blue office. Local firms Bonacio Construction and the LA Group were to be involved in the development of the building and both agreed to forego any profits to keep the costs as low as possible.

Those plans were scrapped, however, following a lawsuit filed by local residents challenging the proposed shelter expansion as not being in accordance with zoning regulation. A Saratoga County Supreme Court judge subsequently nullified approvals granted by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board which would have allowed the shelter to be built.

 

Correction: Note, the initial posting of this story mis-identified the explored location of the shelter as being east of Broadway. The potential location is on the West side of Broadway. The headline has been corrected and its author - who has, for some unknown reason, endured a lifelong struggle of discerning "east" from "west" - regrets the error. - TD  

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