As Saratoga Springs Grapples with Solutions to Homelessness, a Look 24 miles to Our South May Be Instructive
As Saratoga Springs looks for solutions to its growing homelessness dilemma, it may be a good idea for people who care about finding solutions, to look at examples of situations that work.
Admittedly, at first glance, you could hardly find two areas more dissimilar than Saratoga Springs and Schenectady. Schenectady is more urban, perhaps more gritty, with over twice the population, and with a greater percentage of its population living below the poverty line.
There is a lot that our citizenry, and the newly-named task force in Saratoga Springs can learn from, by casting their eyes just 24 miles to the south. It may not be the only viable situation that Saratoga Springs could make work, but it’s a good place to start. For there is no denying that Schenectady is miles ahead in its treatment of their homelessness issue, and they have elements (including NO government funding!) that are worthy of considering.
Also, and this is important: People in Saratoga can and do go to the City Mission for their services, and have for some time. They are welcomed cordially – NO ONE is turned away.
I asked Angie Silipigno, Senior Development Officer for City Mission of Schenectady, to put together a profile of what they do and how they make it work:
- City Mission has approximately 100 men, women, and children who seek shelter here each night.
- City Mission provides over 600 meals daily to our residents and community members (that’s approximately 200,000 free meals each year)
- City Mission helps supply clothing for clothing rooms in 11 Schenectady schools so that children in need can get any items they may not otherwise have access to (everything from underclothes to shirts and pants to winter coats and shoes)
- City Mission distributed winter coats to 1300 residents and community members last year
- City Mission offers a variety of educational opportunities for our residents, ranging from basic life skills to transitional employment opportunities to work training that serves to empower individuals to re-enter the workforce.
- City Mission focused on health and wellness and aide our residents in growing stronger physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
City Mission of Schenectady – History:
Since 1906, City Mission of Schenectady has been faithfully serving poor and under-resourced women, men, and children in Schenectady. City Mission provides emergency food, shelter, and support in a manner that dignifies and strengthens the individual, the family and the community. Specifically, the Mission provides meals, clothing, shelter and other essential resources to those in need throughout our community.
In addition to emergency shelter, men and women have the opportunity to engage in life-skills training and job-skills training, while also receiving critical emotional support. City Mission’s goal is to help the individuals in our care transition from poverty to sustainability. City Mission partners with many local businesses and community organizations to help those we serve.
City Mission’s Ambassadors Program is an award-winning hospitality service for Downtown Schenectady, and surrounding communities. Founded and managed by City Mission of Schenectady since 2010, Ambassadors serve Downtown and surrounding community visitors, residents, workers, and business owners. They do this by assisting with directions, parking, access to venues, and, most importantly, by helping to foster a welcoming environment.
Ambassadors are uniquely qualified to provide hospitality because they have personal experience with poverty and have received help from City Mission. This gives them a unique understanding regarding the diversity of people who gather downtown. Their life experiences, combined with hospitality training, equips them with a special ability to respond to difficult situations in a way that helps build the community.
The Ambassadors Program is also a workforce development initiative. Many Downtown Ambassadors have moved-on to full-time employment, higher education, and leadership roles at City Mission.
Building on the success of the Ambassadors Program, City Mission has begun a new initiative, the Ambassadors 2.0 Program. With the support of many community and business leaders, our Ambassadors are now actively seeking out the homeless, to provide assistance, and encourage them to come to City Mission and other partners for help.
Ambassadors accomplish this with the help of a new donated van, equipped with food, clothing and other essential items, which is driven around Schenectady each night by Ambassadors who search for those who need help.
Early results are very encouraging, as we assist those in need to connect with City Mission and other agencies such as DSS. Each day, City Mission is helping those in need to move forward in their journey to break free from homelessness.
Bridges to Wellness Agricultural Program:
Over the past few years, our Freight Farm has allowed us to embrace healthier food and lifestyles at City Mission, as well as share nutritious resources with our community. We are now excited to share the extension of these efforts as we are expanding our farming in our new greenhouse.
The greenhouse was born out of the tremendous growth opportunities experienced through our Freight Farm. With the production of over 500 heads of lettuce each week in the farm which are utilized within our dining center for healthy and nutritious food options, a wonderful opportunity was born.
Great friends of the Mission, Dave and Teresa Leon, offered the use of their personal greenhouse to develop a pilot agricultural program. In a short time, we were able to harvest a variety of greens, beets, tomatoes, and even some flowers. In the coming year, City Mission will continue to develop this program and expand our harvests to aid in our focus on health and wellness at City Mission and in the community.
About the Event in Saratoga: March 25, 2023
The City Mission will be hosting their first ever ‘Dueling Pianos Event’ in Saratoga Springs on Saturday, March 25th! They are doing something new and different in hopes of bringing together current friends of the Mission, as well as sharing the story of the Mission with new friends. Through events like this, they hope to continue to spread the word about the work being done at City Mission each day and continue to have the ability to be innovative in our programming and outreach within the community to best meet the needs of the homeless in Schenectady and the surrounding areas.
In addition to City Mission’s regular year-round services and support, they are focusing on the expansion of several programs (see above) this year. Since City Mission does not receive any government funding, it is through community partners, such as individuals, businesses, foundations, and churches, that they are able to continue to expand and adapt the services we offer to meet the ever-changing and growing needs that arise each day.
Join us for an evening of food, fun, and friendship to benefit the City Mission of Schenectady. Come enjoy a high-energy musical performance by The Flying Ivories. The Flying Ivories perform their all-request rock and roll sing-along shows across the country. Any genre of music and they’ve got it covered! So come with your requests ready, your dancing shoes on, and your singing voice ready to belt out your favorite tunes!
$100 / person | Admission includes show and hors d’oeuvres
6 pm: Mingle and Mission Moment
7 pm: Piano Show starts
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