Cars are a means of getting from one place to another-but for some people in desperate circumstances, they can also be a place to sleep for the night. But in very cold weather this can be dangerous-and the county social services department wants people to know there are other options.
To make sure no-one is left out in the cold, the department is striving to get state funding approved to open warming centers operated by the Salvation Army this year.
The warming centers will provide the county with a new more effective way to comply with the NYS Code Blue regulations, which require the housing of any individual when the temperature is 32 degrees or less. Until such time that warming centers can be opened, the county must resort to the use of motels for shelter during Code Blue time periods.
This is challenging due to limited motel rooms as well as the need for supervision by many of the individuals served. The warming center will provide both supervision and service connection.
The County Office Building will be open during the daytime hours as a place where people can go to warm up from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., reported Social Services Commissioner Kristen Monroe at a Community Services Board meeting last week.
Then at 4:30 p.m., Grace and Holy Spirit Episcopal Church on Court Street will be open to serve the evening hours. This is also where the Loaves & Fishes food program is housed, so people can take advantage of that service while they warm up as well.
For the overnight hours, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., the Salvation Army will be open, said Monroe.
The Salvation Army will provide all staffing and supplies for both after-hours locations via a contract with the county to cover their basic operating costs. All the centers will be staffed to provide safety and security, she said, and security cameras will be operating during the time the centers are in use. The social services department will also work in conjunction with local police departments and community agencies to help transport people to shelter who are found outside in sub-freezing temperatures, said Monroe.
The service is for people who have no place else to go and do not qualify for temporary assistance through the Social Services Department, said Monroe.
Those who qualify for temporary assistance have other accommodations such as temporary housing through Catholic Charities or arrangements with local motels, she explained. The warming centers are not for families with children, as families are housed in motel rooms to ensure the safety of children.
Monroe said she wants people who may otherwise be reluctant to receive assistance-to know that the centers are there to help. There will also be an intake procedure where recipients who are willing are screened to see if they could benefit from other services, she said.