What’s to become of Watertown’s temporary homeless shelter?

Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 6:00 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - As the Salvation Army prepares to open its doors to a new warming center, could it mean the end of Watertown’s temporary homeless shelter?

“I’m hoping that Santa can deliver a new home for everybody this year,” said Tammy Higby.

Tammy has lived in the county’s temporary homeless shelter in Watertown for the better part of the last month.

Friday night, the new warming center at the Salvation Army is set to open too.

Officials say Narcan, suicide prevention, mental health classes, and other training are wrapping up as beds wait to be filled.

It was thought the county’s facility would close as the warming center opened.

But Jefferson County officials say there isn’t a hard deadline.

“We’ve always said that we would be open until we could get these people to a more permanent, professional facility,” said Bill Johnson, county legislature chairman.

The county will try to move people to the warming center, which will be open from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

“The Salvation Army is really the professionals in the homeless area, they’ve been doing it for years. We’re amateurs. We’re trying to serve a need, but we really don’t have the expertise to provide that service for a long time,” said Johnson.

Upon hearing the news the Salvation Army’s warming center is set to open Friday, a couple of people who have been staying at the homeless shelter say they’re feeling apprehensive.

“I think they’d rather stay here because this one is 24/7. They can put their things down, go to their appointments,” said Higby.

P.J. Simao, owner of the building, sent an email to the county offering the space for two years free of charge. But Johnson says that won’t be necessary.

“Not for that length of time. We’re hoping to get out of there a lot sooner than that,” he said.

Meanwhile, the former Angel’s Inn on Pine Street in Watertown is set to open as a homeless shelter in mid-January.