Schenectady shelter prepares to take in homeless as temperatures drop

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A Schenectady homeless shelter is taking steps to meet the new requirements laid out by the governor.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been proactive in protecting the homeless this winter season. On Sunday, he announced he signed an executive order that includes extending hours at homeless shelters.

The extended hours are to ensure that the homeless have a place to stay warm. For the first time this winter season, temperatures will plummet Monday night into Tuesday.

The order takes effect on Tuesday.

The City Mission of Schenectady is already a 24/7 shelter, but it said it will work to accommodate people as best it can. Executive Director Michael Sacoccio said the shelter is not only prepared for a large crowd but also knowing how to handle those who don’t want to stay at the shelter.

“There is no guarantee. People have other issues that may keep them from wanting to be in a shelter,” Sacoccio said. “Historically, we’ve always respected that in a shelter. Historically, we’ve respected that if someone don’t want to be here, we’ll then look at Plan B: how can we help them without them being in the shelter.”

Other ways of helping may include providing clothing such as a hat, jacket or food. The shelter said it has the usual regulations about who they allow in, but it said it will try to be more lenient when the temperatures drop.

“One would be mental health problems,” Saccocio said. “If someone is struggling with mental health problems, reason or logic is not going to necessarily clam them down, so we do our best to do what we can or work cooperatively with other agencies. Other would be if someone is under substance abuse.”

Homelessness is a universal problem, and some may refuse a shelter and prefer to stay in the cold. In that situation, a shelter should find another way to help, according to the executive order.

“If somebody leaves, we’ll call the police department and say so-and-so has just left our shelter; we’re concerned,” Sacoccio said. “We believe that they’re at risk, and then we’ll involve local law enforcement.”

Schenectady police have been meeting with city leaders about the executive order. They said they won’t have extra patrols looking out for homeless individuals, but they said they will do anything they can to help if they see one.

“Anytime we receive a call for an individual, as long as temperatures are 32 degrees and below and any person’s homeless and we receive a call, the police department and fire department will be dispatched,” Schenectady Police Lt. Mark McCracken said.

Police will also conduct a mental health check, if individuals refuse to be brought to a shelter.

“If the individual refuses, we give them a competency test to make sure that they’re competent under New York State mental health law 9.41 and proceed from there,” McCracken said.

If a person does have a mental illness, police said they will be arrested and brought to a mental health facility and not a shelter.

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