GLOVERSVILLE — The Common Council voted 6-0 Tuesday to authorize spending $6,000 from the city’s $1.5 million in U.S. American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to pay for two part-time staff members to oversee nightly volunteers at the city’s Code Blue temporary homeless shelter at 24 3rd Ave.
First Ward Councilwoman Marcia Weiss said a total of 62 people have sought shelter from the cold at the former VFW building since the city converted it to a temporary Code Blue shelter on Jan. 14.
“We are averaging 10 people per week,” Weiss said.
However, coordinating volunteers to stay at the building almost every night hasn’t been easy.
“After doing it myself for a couple of weeks, believe me it’s a big job,” Weiss said. “They have to be CPR trained, and we’ve been sending them out to the county to get the training. The city pays for the training for the certificate. It’s about $10 for them to get the certification. We’ve got probably three of four regular volunteers, but after that it’s been a struggle. [Mayor] Vince [DeSantis] has gone in there and done it.”
Weiss said the $6,000 in ARPA money authorized by the council Tuesday night will be used to pay Michael and Angela Chase to coordinate overnight shelter volunteers for the duration of the Code Blue season, which will last until nighttime temperatures stop dipping below 32 degrees routinely, probably around the end of April. She said the Chases have familiarity with what needs to be done to operate the shelter.
“Mike Chase is the one who owned the building (144 E. Fulton St.) where we did the Code Blue last year,” Weiss said.
In January 2021, the council voted to contribute $25,000 of city funds toward the establishment of a Code Blue temporary homeless shelter at 144 E. Fulton St., while it was owned by Chase, with a portion of that funding going towards a four-month lease for that building. While the staff members to run that temporary homeless shelter came from the Albany-based Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, they were coordinated by members of the Gloversville Free Methodist Church’s Center for Hope organization. Chase has since sold that building.
The vote to fund a temporary Code Blue shelter in 2021 came shortly after the majority of the council voted to change the city’s zoning to allow temporary Code Blue shelters to operate in most of the city’s commercial zones. However, the zoning change explicitly prohibited them from being located within the “form-based overlay” portion of downtown, which includes the former YWCA at 33 Bleecker St. where the Center of Hope operated the city’s first temporary Code Blue homeless shelter in 2020, under a temporary certificate of occupancy.
The Center of Hope was never able to get a permanent certificate of occupancy at 33 Bleecker St. for a Code Blue shelter, and has been in litigation with the city over the matter ever since.
In January, seeking to resolve the ongoing controversy over what to do about its homeless population during the winter months, the Common Council voted to use some of its federal ARPA money to purchase the former VFW building at 24 3rd Ave. from its former owner, real estate broker Joseph M. Lander, for $170,000. Going forward, the city plans to use the building primarily as its city Recreation Commission Center, but also as a temporary Code Blue homeless shelter during the cold winter months.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio asked if the city can get the $6,000 expense to hire part-time staff for the Code Blue shelter refunded through Fulton County.
“We won’t be able to recoup the money we’re spending this year,” DeSantis said. “In the future, it’s our hope to get this completely state funded, and we have to do that through the county, so we have to really urge our Gloversville supervisors to support it. Plan B would be to approach the state ourselves.”
Weiss said she’s been working with Gloversville 5th Ward Supervisor Greg Young toward getting the county onboard for a permanent solution for state funding for the Code Blue shelter.
“Normally, [New York state Code Blue shelter funding] is applied for through the county Department of Social Services, that’s the normal way it’s done,” DeSantis said. “So, we’re hoping to be able to urge them to do that. What we’ll do is have a complete estimated total cost with paid staff, and it should be 100% [state] funded.”
In the meantime, Weiss said anyone who is interested in volunteering at the shelter should call Michael Chase at 518-773-7703.