Thursday, March 21, 2013

City Hall Vandal Exposes a Bigger Issue- Homelessness

A concrete block flinging vandal has called attention to the needs for improved security systems in that gracious and venerable, but somewhat neglected, building Saratogians know as City Hall. Initial reports indicated the man who was "probably drunk" caused about $2,500 damage. That's a good case for improved security systems. 

Today the Saratogian’s front page article starts with the sentence, "Homeless people sometimes sleep in City Hall without anyone knowing it" and repeatedly mentions that homeless people are occasionally found in City Hall at night. While noting that the vandal left the bars on Caroline St. before his 4:40 a.m. destructive spree, much of the article focuses on homeless persons sleeping in City Hall. Reporter Lucian McCarty thoughtfully notes the homeless are not there with ill intent, referencing Skip Scirocco, "Every now and again a janitor will go up at night and find someone sleeping." But in articulating City Hall's security needs, drunken vandals and  homeless persons seeking refuge from the elements are intertwined. 

I'm sure the next city council meeting's agenda  will include improved security. It should. But I hope that when a decision is made to upgrade security measures, we don't forget that there are homeless people in our community... even if we don't see them. Did you know that sometimes people are sleeping in City Hall at night? I didn't.  

Each year, the Saratoga County Housing Alliance conducts a one-day count of known homeless persons. In 2012, on a frigid January day they counted 128 homeless persons, including 71 single persons and 20 families, with 32 children, who had no place to call home. About 30% of those people were literally living on the street. Even  sadder, many people who were homeless on that day are not counted, simply because we didn't see them. 

Clearly, drunken vandalism is dangerous and causes costly damage. And yes, Saratoga County's homeless sometimes seek shelter in places not meant for sleeping. But better security won't solve both issues. It will just push the homeless to another spot out of sight. While we consider upgrading security systems, let's not forget about men, women and children who don't have a place to lay their heads at night. My thanks to Lucian for McCarty for taking this opportunity to open our eyes about homelessness... let's not overlook his message.

If you are homeless or know someone who there are agencies that can help:
Saratoga County Department of Social Services 518-884-9140
Shelters of Saratoga 518-581-1097
Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Sartatoga County 518-584-8188
CAPTAIN's Youth Shelter 518-371-1185

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