Shelters of Saratoga takes unique approach to protecting homeless population

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10)- As the coronavirus began making its way across the state, Shelters of Saratoga Executive Director Karen Gregory knew continuing to operate the shelter on Adelphi and Walworth streets was dangerous for both the homeless they serve and their staff. Gregory immediately took action and reached out to the Mayor’s Office for help.

With Mayor Meg Kelly’s support, Gregory said the shelter moved its operation to the Saratoga Senior Center. The center gave Shelters of Saratoga a bigger space but when the coronavirus started becoming more widespread Gregory knew a better option was needed that would allow people to live separately in order to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.

“When the pandemic hit, we had about 61 people living at Adelphi and about 30 people on Walworth, in two different buildings. The Adelphi location, which is our emergency shelter for the winter months, is one massive room with 61 cots, with two bathrooms and really pretty close quarters. So, there wasn’t any kind of capabilities to do social distancing,” Gregory said.

Within a couple of weeks of being at the Senior Center and as cases of coronavirus grew, Gregory knew the center wasn’t going to be able to provide the type of environment needed to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.

She contacted Mayor Kelly once again, and together they started contacting mostly empty hotels in Saratoga, in the hopes that one of them would consent to become a temporary shelter for Saratoga’s homeless. “We started knocking on doors basically which led us to the Holiday Inn and to Kevin Tuohy,” Gregory said.

Tuohy, the general manager at the Holiday Inn, said they were considering closing the hotel when approached by the Mayor and Gregory. He said allowing Shelters of Saratoga to house residents at the hotel has been mutually beneficial by allowing him to keep employees on the payroll. He said he doesn’t understand the negative stigma surrounding the homeless because it’s been no different than having regular guests. “It’s such a great situation. We’re fortunate to be able to help,” said Tuohy.

Our decision to come into a hotel really proves something and it’s that everybody needs a home. They need access to hygiene. They need their own bed. They need privacy. They need to be able to wash their clothing. They need to have nutritious meals and it’s been beautiful to watch with the residents that are here that their (mental illness) symptoms are kind of diminishing.

Karen Gregory
Executive Director Shelters of Saratoga

The unusual approach has proved highly successful, Gregory said none of the homeless housed at the Holiday Inn have been diagnosed with COVID-19.


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