After being rebuffed by Saratoga County’s Department of Social Services in their search for safe housing for the homeless, Shelters of Saratoga (SOS) got help from Saratoga Springs Mayor Kelly to secure a place.
Karen Gregory, the Executive Director of SOS, repeatedly requested assistance in finding temporary housing for the homeless from the County DSS only to be rebuffed.
“I made several requests to Saratoga County to move our shelters into a local hotel before someone was symptomatic or tested positive for COVID-19. I was told over and over again that would not be possible until somebody tested positive, although I explained at that point it would be too late and I was afraid we would have a shelter full of very sick people including my staff. Ultimately, I did not want anyone to die.”Karen Gregory from SOS press release
Tina Potter, the Commissioner of the Saratoga County Department of Social Services, defended her actions to the Times Union:
“I provided to her all the regulations and guidance that we have received from the (state) Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the CDC and the New York State Department of Health. … What that said was non-symptomatic people currently in shelter should remain in shelter. … It indicated it is important to have rooms available for use by people who are directed to be quarantined and it would not be appropriate to move non-symptomatic, non-quarantined people into the hotel rooms we may need for individuals who are symptomatic.”Tina Potter, Commissioner of Saratoga County Department of Social Services
The problem is that at the current shelter beds are quite close together which conflicts with the other New York State advisory that people should practice “Social Distancing.”
Homeless people are not only at increased risk but they can put the rest of the community at increased risk should they get sick. I really hate to point out the cost efficiency issue here as for me the moral imperative is the real issue. Nevertheless, what do readers of this blog think the cost of hospitalizing one homeless person stricken with the virus would be as compared to putting up forty people at a discount at the Holiday Inn? How many homeless people would contract the disease if they were crammed together in the shelter and one of them became infected? What about the additional stress on Saratoga Hospital and its staff?
“Our number one priority is the health and safety of people we are helping each day. Social distancing and hygiene is the only way to slow the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, people experiencing homelessness don’t have the ability to stay home. People experiencing homelessness don’t have regular access to sinks where they can wash their hands and those staying at homeless shelters can’t always remain six feet from another person. There are simply too many people and not enough space.”Karen Gregory, SOS Executive Director
Is Commissioner Potter one of those “essential” County employees being paid time and a half during this crisis?
So what did Mayor Kelly (who makes $14,500.00/year) do when approached by Ms. Gregory for help? Of course she threw herself into problem solving mode.
“For our city, this was not a high enough standard [JK : the standard set by the County] I’m proud that Saratoga Springs is joining a short, but growing list of communities across the country prepared to prevent infection and spread among our homeless population by using hotels to practice social distancing and enable access to adequate hygiene, hand washing, and quarantine. This will save lives.”Mayor Meg Kelly
In a news release issued by SOS, Gregory praised the Mayor for her help. Mayor Kelly promised help and the next morning the two started going “door to door” seeking a hotel.
They found a partner in the Holiday Inn.
Kevin Tuohy, general manager of the local Holiday Inn, bought in. Tuohy was originally from here and returned last year to manage the Holiday Inn.
A little history. In 1961 when the economy of Saratoga Springs was especially low, a group was established to provide quality lodging in the city. Money was raised and the Holiday Inn was born.
“In 1961, the idea of a community hotel in Saratoga Springs was born. While asking for donations from locals, the founders of the hotel stated that ‘change can impact a community in a positive way. Fifty-six years later, we are incredibly proud to have the opportunity to change the way we operate to support the Saratoga Springs community in this time of unprecedented crisis.”Kevin Touhy
Do We Live In A Great City Or What??