Guests milled about tables draped in white linen, and were accompanied by the tasteful sounds of a four-piece jazz ensemble during the annual Shelters of Saratoga Gala at Longfellows Restaurant in April.
“S.O.S. goes to great lengths to not only get people back on their feet, but to do it with dignity,” explained WNYT news anchor Phil Bayly, who served as the master of ceremonies for the event. “They show them kindness and respect and treat them like a guest in their home.”
Guests who plunked down $100 apiece perused a silent auction table featuring VIP boxes at Saratoga Race Course, collectible footballs, and a crafter’s library of books featuring everything from grilling with George Foreman to the culinary fare of northern Italy. The food and the space where the event was staged were donated by Longfellows. Organizers hoped to raise $50,000 for S.O.S. programs, which feature four buildings and a mobile outreach program to assist the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.
The needs are staggering. In 2013, S.O.S. served more than 25,000 meals and provided more than 10,000 bed nights to houseguests; 453 houseguests were served through emergency shelter housing, and nearly 850 face-to-face contacts were made with youths through the mobile outreach program in the greater Saratoga region.
Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen said the “continuum of care” is about getting people off the street, into a home and eventually into gainful employment.
S.O.S. beneficiary Jonathan D’Allaird spoke to guests about his troubled childhood. His journey included placement in foster care at the age of nine and an unsuccessful adoption at 14 before drifting through a series of hotels and mental health units. “I was all alone,” he said. D’Allaird had one week to find a place to live and was running out of time when he met S.O.S. Youth Outreach Coordinator Crystal Swinton. “Crystal helped me get my life in order by getting into Shelters of Saratoga, where I could lay my head and not worry.” D’Allaird explained S.O.S. provided a safe environment and helped him to focus on his goals, one of which he achieved a few months ago when he enrolled in college.