Saratoga Springs couple continues mission to build permanent cold-weather homeless shelter

January 21, 2019 06:18 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS - The basement and spare rooms at the Soul Saving Station church were at maximum capacity on Monday. People were sitting or lying on cots. Others on the makeshift beds are covered with blankets and personal belongings.

There are no showers here, and just two bathrooms for more than 50 people, but for people like Kevin Dowdle, it beats the alternative:
"Freezing to death," said Dowdle.


Dowdle said he feels fortunate to be able to come here when the weather is brutally cold.

"I lost my job and Cheryl took us in, and they became my family."

Cheryl is the person who oversees the temporary cold weather shelter here.

It's offered at Soul Saving Station because neighbors and a judge said a proposal for a permanent Code Blue shelter didn't fit in near the existing homeless shelter on Walworth Street.

So they hold it here and at another nearby church when it's really cold and they run out of room at Soul Saving Station.

"If we had one location that we could be open 24 hours a day, people wouldn't have to risk their lives during this temperature to go outside," said Rosemary Riedhammer, director of development and marketing for Shelters of Saratoga, the not-for-profit that oversees the Code Blue shelter.

Ed and Lisa Mitzen are the driving force behind the push for a permanent shelter. The couple first became aware of the homeless problem after a Saratoga Springs woman died on the cold streets in 2013.

The Mitzens volunteer there and they've donated their money to build a shelter. They have the plans and local builder, Sonny Bonacio, who will do it at cost.

"We need a permanent location. We need a solution and we're not going to give up until we have one," said Lisa.

The Mitzens and Shelters of Saratoga are getting closer to finding the right spot, and say they hope to make an announcement soon.

"It's not about us, we want to really help these people. At the end of the day, they are people and no one should have to endure these temperatures," Lisa said.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Meg Kelly said she's also working with Shelters of Saratoga to find a location for a permanent facility, saying, "It's only human to help those who have no shelter."

Kelly also said Monday that the state and county need to help come up with a solution.


Mark Mulholland

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