Reading the ‘100 Years Ago’ section in today’s Saratogian, I was struck by how little some things change. Referring to a social issue in Mechanicville the article states, “The hobo problem is becoming serious in the city… Last month 111 ‘Knights of the Road” were lodged at the local jail, released in the morning and ushered out of town.” As I read other articles in the Saratogian, Racino Helps Out Local Program and Saratoga Business Journal, Shelters Of Saratoga Gears Up Its ‘Code Blue’ Program and Has New Plans In Coming Year, I was struck by how much our response has shifted from a punitive response to trying to provide compassionate intervention to help people overcome challenges and get back on track.
Mike Finocchi, the executive director of Shelters of Saratoga, who oversees Code Blue, the homeless shelter, the adult and youth drop in program and street outreach program, explained that homeless people are a tight knit group who look out for each other and recommend Code Blue to their peers when the temperature drops, “No one wants to see someone they know freezing to death.” It’s not just homeless persons looking out for each other. In Saratoga, I think we can change that sentence to “No one wants to see anyone freezing to death.” We remember that Code Blue started with a tragic death on a cold December night. Code Blue would not exist without the immense community support: donations from local restaurants to provide meals, community volunteers staffing the shelter throughout the many cold nights over the past 2 winters, businesses like Cudney’s donating services, the generosity of the Salvation Army providing space for Code Blue, as well as generous financial contributions that sustain this humanitarian intervention.
Reading the ‘100 Years Ago’ article I realized some things haven’t changed. There were people struggling with homelessness then and there are now too. But today the police don’t lock them up and then put them on a rail out of town. Today they bring them to Code Blue, where they are treated with dignity and offered not just a hot meal and safe night’s sleep, but the resources and assistance to overcome their current challenges.