2 groups prepare to help the homeless this winter

WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) – With colder temperatures, homelessness continues to be an issue. But, a few organizations are gearing up to help.

Beneath the JB Wise car park pavilion in Watertown are a growing number of tents as the homeless population tries to stay warm.

“We are coming into the winter months. Code blue season as we call it in our agency,” said Jefferson County Department of Human Services Commissioner Theresa Gaffney.

Finding a place to help the county’s homeless population stay warm at night this winter is becoming a growing concern for the DSS. Places like 661 Factory Street, Rainbow Motel and now Hotis Motel can no longer be used.

“Last winter was difficult during the code blue season when we are required to place individuals. As time passed and we met, we decided we really needed a warming center this year,” Gaffney said.

But where could people actually go when temperatures drop below freezing?

“If you don’t have anywhere to go at night, it’s cold, you can come here,” said Watertown Salvation Army Captain Elizabeth Nicoll.

The Salvation Army in Watertown is opening its new Code Blue warming center on State Street. The night shelter will be open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. during the winter.

The safe place for the night will have 20 beds to sleep in, as well as a shower, laundry and food.

“To be able to provide this service, it really shows love and care for those who really need to see this kind of behavior towards them,” Nicoll said.

The Salvation Army isn’t the only group looking to reach out to Watertown’s homeless.

“We are opening a facility that will serve homeless men. It’s called an SRO or single room occupancy facility,” said Maureen Cean, executive director, Transitional Living Services of Upstate New York.

The organization held an open house at 518 Pine Street to show the public the new facilities. The 18-room house also has a common space, two kitchens and shared bathrooms for the occupants.

“We are coming to winter. The winter weather is enough that someone cannot live on the streets 24/7,” Caen said.

There is no date set yet for the opening of the warming center or the SRO house.

Both facilities are working to fill in the staff needed to operate the shelters so people can find something warmer this winter than sleeping in a tent.

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