Saratoga Springs church to have shelter for domestic violence victims, veterans and backstretch workers

July 17, 2019 07:23 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Soon the Bethesda Episcopal Church will have some company. Right next door, there will be a four-story building that will give a home to the homeless. Mercy House hopes to break ground later this year and open in late 2020 or early 2021.

The church's parish house will be on the first floor and above there will be three stories of rooms for victims of domestic violence, veterans with children, and track backstretch workers who are injured or in drug or alcohol recovery.


"This will be a tremendous welcoming hug by the community to the backstretch workers who are sick and need respite care," said Paul Ruchames, executive director of BEST, Backstretch Employee Service Team.

The area for backstretch workers will be named after horse trainer Rick Violette, a long-time advocate for improving lives of backstretch workers before he passed from cancer in October.

The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association donated $25,000 Wednesday toward the $9 million building saying it's an investment in the people who make the track go.

"They don't have great savings or access to social security or some of the other social safety net and this is the first of its kind," said Joe Appelbaum, president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

Unlike the proposed Code Blue shelter, Mercy House, which will have room for 45 people, hasn't faced opposition from neighbors.  

"All of our neighbors here are commercial pretty much, and I've canvassed the whole neighborhood. I've talked to every merchant around the block here before we announced the basic structure of Mercy House back in April and they were all cheering us on," said Gordon Boyd, president of Mercy House of Saratoga.

Mercy House offered to rent space to Code Blue, but backers of the cold weather shelter for the homeless told NewsChannel 13 the offer was too expensive and the building presented challenges to the people they serve.


Mark Mulholland

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