Since 1991 Shelters of Saratoga has been assisting individuals who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness by offering a path to self-sufficiency and helping these individuals to get back on their feet through:
• Case management services
• Service referrals and resources
• Positive social interaction
Shelters of Saratoga’s mission is to provide individuals with safe shelter, supportive services and sustainable strategies to end homelessness in the Greater Saratoga region.
In September 1991, a community forum including representatives from local agencies, elected officials, and concerned citizens was held to discuss homelessness in Saratoga Springs. In response to this growing issue the forum led to the implementation of an emergency homeless shelter for men during frigid weather. From here Shelters of Saratoga (SOS) was formed.
SOS opened the doors of its first shelter in January 1992 at St. Clements Church, with enough beds for six homeless men. Later that year, the shelter moved from the church to a mobile home on East Beekman Street that provided enough space for eight beds, all for males.
In 1997, SOS completed the construction of the shelter located at 14 Walworth Street from Community Development Block Grant and Emergency Shelter Grant Program funds. This new building provided housing for 13 men and had 6 beds for women as well — an important step forward.
SOS acquired properties on Washington Street and Grand Avenue in the early 2000s. These two properties were redeveloped into seven apartments for occupancy by low-income families and individuals. When available and appropriate, they are used as affordable housing units for individuals moving successfully out of the shelter program.
In 2009, Shelters of Saratoga purchased a two-family structure located at 20 Walworth Street, adjacent to the existing 14 Walworth Street shelter. SOS utilized this new location to initiate a transitional housing pilot program that provided qualified former shelter houseguests with stable housing and practical support for up to 18 months.
In 2010, SOS recognized the importance of providing help to those who were not able to stay at the shelter. Through the Mobile Outreach program, case managers and volunteers make face to face contact with individuals and families that are “street” homeless or temporarily housed in one of the area’s residential motels and provide essential supplies and supportive services are provided.
Faced with the inability to provide adequate shelter to an increasing number of homeless men and women, in 2012 SOS converted the 20 Walworth Street duplex in to a 13 bed shelter for men. That action has increased both SOS capacity and utilization allowing the case managed shelter program to house up to 35 individuals.
Through a partnership with CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services, a Youth Outreach Program was implemented in 2012. SOS reaches out to and assists runaway, street, homeless and at-risk youth ages 13-21 by way of street outreach and youth specific drop-in centers. During the drop-in center, homeless and at-risk youth can come to the shelter at 20 Walworth Street to wash laundry, take a shower, have a hot meal and receiving assistance with housing, employment and other services.
Through a collaboration of the City of Saratoga Springs, faith-based groups, and nonprofits serving the homeless in December 2013 Code Blue Saratoga was brought about in response to an unmet need for emergency shelter in Saratoga County. This program provides temporary shelter to people who would otherwise remain unsheltered during periods of extreme winter weather. SOS had been the fiscal agent since its inception. In August 2015 the steering committee announced SOS would serve as the lead agency to ensure the initiative remains a viable and developing program.
In late fall 2015, SOS looks forward to opening an adult drop-in center one day per week. This will provide a safe, warm and dry environment for street homeless individuals to do laundry, take a shower, get a meal and connect with critical resources.