While the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the businesses, restaurants and bars in Saratoga Springs—and that’s meant some people have lost their jobs—the city’s homeless populations are hurting even more than usual. In fact, Shelters of Saratoga (SOS) is itself in crisis mode, with a serious need for monetary donations to help protect that most vulnerable of area populations, who have become increasingly vulnerable to the rapid spread of the virus.
That’s why on Friday, March 20, SOS launched a COVID-19 Response Fund, in hopes of raising enough money to keep its facilities up and running, with a goal of $150,000 by April 15 just to sustain business for the next couple of months. With this year’s annual fundraising gala having been cancelled due to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shutting down large events temporarily, SOS is losing a “considerable amount of operating revenue,” according to Rosemary Royce, its director of development and marketing. “We are operating now 24/7 at both shelters,” she says. “We’ve had to bring on additional staff as we’ve lost some people, so those are some of the costs that we’re faced with, and the increased need of food security, the availability of food is scarce as you can well imagine.”
Another real-time issue is the uncertainty of some restaurants’ support now compared to the past, as a result of recent closures. It’s left SOS’ staff in a tough situation to fulfill their priority of keeping Saratoga’s homeless populations “safe, sheltered and fed,” according to Royce. On top of all this, the staff at SOS has also had to implement social distancing measures and encourage good hygiene and hand-washing techniques from its shelter residents. Staff members are also encouraging residents to remain inside to prevent potential exposure to the COVID-19 virus. “It’s tough to do, because people are used to having their freedom and liberties just like the rest of us,” says Royce. “You have all of these people in shelter who no longer have those liberties, and they’re in a [communal] living situation with other people. We intend on maintaining shelter for these people. They don’t have anywhere else to go.”
As of this afternoon, the fundraiser has raised more than $45,000 towards its goal. To help out the facility, individuals and local businesses are donating large trays of lasagna, pizza deliveries and other meals that are nutritionally adequate for its residents. Last week, the staff had to make an emergency move from their temporary Code Blue Shelter location on Adelphi Street to the Saratoga Senior Center on Williams Street in order to provide adequate distancing between people. They can now house up to 54 people there and up to 25 people in their year-round shelters on Walworth Street.
“Our staff is essentially working around the clock right now,” says Royce. “Honestly, the monetary donations are No.1, because it allows us to purchase hand sanitizer and all the supplies that we need to keep people healthy and to keep them sheltered. It gives us a lot of flexibility to move that money where we need it, whether that be staffing or equipment supplies, food, you know, keeping our lights on. We’re not getting the same amount of money coming in from our sources that we normally would for fundraising.”