Saratoga's Code Blue shelter has provided a safe and warm place for the city's homeless during frigid winter nights since 2013.
“The winter especially is critical because people can die outside," said Rosemary Riedhammer, the director of development and marketing at Shelters of Saratoga (SOS).
SOS operates Code Blue at Henry Street's Soul Saving Station Church; a year ago it faced its most challenging winter yet.
“From November 15 until April 1, we were only closed a total of six days last year,” Riedhammer said. “That gives you an idea of the scope of what last winter was like.”
New this year, Code Blue will not be closed any nights in the Spa City.
While state law mandates cities provide a safe haven only on days and nights when temperatures fall below 32 degrees, the non-profit's board recently decided to always keep the shelter open, until the weather warms in April.
"That is just to ensure that people have a safe place to sleep when the temperature is hovering just over freezing; it gives them consistent sheltering and safety throughout the winter,” Riedhammer said.
Over the past week, Riedhammer said the shelter has averaged around 30 nightly guests, but SOS leaders said the increased usage puts them at greater need for community assistance.
“We [are] always looking for volunteers," Riedhammer said.
After plans to construct a year-round facility near its base on Walworth Street were defeated in September, Shelters of Saratoga is still in search for a permanent home for Code Blue.
“We were very disappointed but we are looking at other options and working with other community partners to make sure we can provide that service in the long run," Riedhammer said.
Until then, they are committed to providing vital service at their temporary location.
“It’s critical to have a safety net in the community for anyone who happens to need it,” Riedhammer said.