Watertown’s temporary homeless shelter to close soon

Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 4:05 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The temporary shelter for homeless and displaced people, open for 2 weeks, is set to close in about 2 weeks. It means Jefferson County is moving on to the next step - something not liked by a Watertown City Council member.

The Watertown Salvation Army is getting ready to open its warming center on State Street in Watertown. The beds are there, but more supplies are still coming.

Captain Dom Nicoll says the Salvation Army needs to hire a few more people and get them trained to run the center.

“We want to make sure that we are doing this safely and doing it the best way that we can to protect everyone that uses our center for this reason,” he said.

When the center opens, which should be before the end of the month, County Administrator Bob Hagemann says Jefferson County will begin emptying out the temporary shelter on Main Avenue, and closing up the building.

Captain Nicoll says once they open, they can bring in 20 people per night. But, he says if they go over that capacity, the warming center would have code blue status and, in that case, the county would need to step in.

Hagemann says, “If the center reaches capacity, a call will be made to Jefferson County Department of Social Services, where they will make arrangements to find them housing for the night.”

DSS Commissioner Teresa Gaffney says those people will be placed in motels and hotels. That likely means the Pleasant Night Inn in West Carthage will see more DSS clients.

One challenge is the Main Avenue location is open 24 hours a day, but the Salvation Army’s warming center will be limited - open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

The county’s move is drawing criticism from a Watertown City Council member.

“And then what are they going to do? They are going to go hang out somewhere to get warm in a laundromat or Burger King and they can go back that night. It’s not tenable. It’s not a solution. And especially the optics of before Christmas, you’d think they would keep this open through until the spring,” said Cliff Olney.

Hagemann says not all people at the temporary shelter will go to the warming center or stay in a motel. There are also efforts to find some people more permanent housing.