SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) –  Saratoga Springs City Council passed an ordinance that bans homeless shelters from being located near schools. Advocates say it sends the wrong message because it equates homeless people to pedophiles. 

At a packed city council meeting on Tuesday, most people were there to share their thoughts on the local law banning homeless shelters from being located within 1,000 feet of schools.

The law stems from plans to turn a former senior living facility into a permanent shelter. Parents halted the plan in its tracks saying they’d fear for their children’s safety, because it was across the street from Saratoga Central Catholic School. 

That’s when the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness was established. Appointee to that task force Hannah Hurley credits the mayor and city council for putting the task force together so quickly, in response to the backlash, but she worries the passage of the law further dehumanizes the homeless.

“There isn’t a correlation between somebody being unhoused, and their capacity to do something awful,” said Hurley.

She fought to get, what she called, offensive language removed from the original motion, including a line that read the 1,000 foot buffer: “is the same legal requirement that restrains pedophiles from residing or frequenting these locations.” 

Hurley says while the language was removed, the sentiment is still the same.

Concerns loom over the newly proposed permanent location, recommended by the task force. It is over two miles away from the city’s center and services for the homeless.

Hurley said she walked from city hall to the proposed location at the Top Hill Motel and it took her nearly 45 minutes to get there. She said there were no sidewalks for the first mile, forcing her to walk on the shoulder of the road. Currently there’s no bus stop there, she said.

The success of the shelter will be determined by its location, she said, and she will continue to advocate for another location.

“A shelter is not going to fix 100 percent of the problems. It’s not going to make them better right away. What it’s going to do is it’s going to reduce the harm it’s going to give these people a sense of hope again,” said Hurley.

The task force has wrapped and the city council is expected to begin its decision-making process on the new shelter in September.