SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Some homeless people in Saratoga Springs said they had to stay in the hospital Tuesday night because the city’s Code Blue shelter was closed.
NEWS10 ABC obtained pictures from homeless who said they were in Saratoga Hospital Tuesday night. They said the conditions were mild compared to other January nights, but it was raining and they needed shelter.
“If you notice, it’s kind of uncomfortable looking,” Brian said.
Brian was one of 12 people who slept in Saratoga Hospital’s lobby. He said he had nowhere else to go.
“What? Sleep on a sidewalk?” he positioned. “Freeze? Get wet? Get cold?”
Brian said he went to the Code Blue shelter hosted at the Saratoga Salvation Army, but the doors were closed. He said an anonymous friend told him to go to the hospital where others were staying for the night.
The friend took the pictures of the homeless who were sleeping in the lobby.
“It wasn’t really cold cold, but when you get damp, you get cold,” Brian said.
At the beginning of January, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered that all homeless people be forced to get off the streets and into shelters once the temperature reaches 32 degrees. But in Saratoga Springs, Code Blue doesn’t open until the temperatures reach 20 degrees.
“I think that it was very hard for people to find anyplace to find shelter,” Brian said.
NEWS10 ABC took the homeless community’s concerns to Shelters of Saratoga Executive Director Michael Finocchi.
“Last night’s temperature did not warrant it, and it’s hard to open up,” he said. “It’s hard to go away from what we have stated our temperatures are, and our thresholds are we basically run on volunteers.”
Finocchi also said no one called his shelter.
“Well, here’s the thing,” he said. “Not on person called Shelters of Saratoga. We had five open beds.”
Finocchi said the shelter doesn’t always have enough volunteers and resources to open Code Blue every night; however, if someone is in need, there is always help.
“If individuals come into the shelter and it’s after hours – say after normal business hours – and we’re full, we’ll sit them down, and we’ll try to get ahold of the Department of Social Services because they have an on-call person and then an on-call person can help them find housing,” he said.
Saratoga Hospital responded with the following statement:
“Last night, approximately 10 to 12 people from the homeless community were brought to our Emergency Department. From what we can best determine, a local homeless volunteer directed or helped transport people to the Hospital because no other facility was open last night. The Hospital has not spoken directly with the volunteer. We have had this occur before, but this is the largest number we have accommodated.
The Hospital has a long-standing practice: If someone from the community comes to the Hospital, we will not turn them away. We will be as responsive as we can be to meet their needs. However, we are not equipped to be a shelter, and refer anyone in need to the local community organizations best prepared to help. As always, our primary focus is to take care of our patients, but we will continue to work closely with local authorities and organizations to identify the best solutions when there is a need and we can help”.
Peter M. Hopper
Director, Marketing & Communications