2 groups getting ready to help the homeless this winter

Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 6:03 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - With colder temperatures upon us, homelessness continues to be a problem. But, a couple of organizations are getting ready to help.

Under the pavilion in the J.B. Wise parking lot in Watertown is a growing number of tents as the homeless population tries to stay warm.

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

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

“Last winter was difficult during code blue season when we’re required to actually place individuals. So as time went on and we were meeting we decided that we really did need a warming center this year,” said Gaffney.

But where might people actually be able to go when the temperatures drop below freezing?

“If you have nowhere 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 overnight shelter will be open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. during the winter.

The nighttime safe spot will have 20 cots to sleep in, along with a shower, laundry facilities, and some food.

“Being able to provide this service, it really does show love and care to those who really need to see that kind of behavior towards them,” said Nicoll.

The Salvation Army is not the only group looking to extend a helping hand to the homeless in Watertown.

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

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

“We’re coming onto the winter weather. The winter weather is enough that someone can not live on the streets 24/7,” said Caen.

There is not a set date yet for either the warming center or SRO home to open.

Both facilities are working on filling out the necessary staffing to operate the shelters so that people can find something warmer this winter than sleeping in a tent.