High number of recent arrests highlights need for services for local homeless

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The executive director of an organization aimed at providing services for Capital Region homeless want officials to address the issue after a dozen homeless people were arrested in Saratoga Springs.

Last week, the Saratoga Springs City police arrested 12 homeless people for different offenses such as trespassing, stealing, and public urination. The police chief said it is an unusual number for a one-week time frame.

But he also wanted to send another message. On the department’s Facebook page, he assured everyone the arrests were not made because they were homeless.

The post read in part, “The Saratoga Springs police do not and will not target the homeless population for aggressive enforcement.”

But Liz Hitt with the Homeless and Travelers Aid Society, an organization that works with the homeless, posed a question.

“If you’re homeless, where are you going during the day?” she positioned.

Most shelters are closed during the day and during warmer weather. Therefore, a more visible homeless population is present on the street, which in turn, has led to more complaints.

The police’s Facebook post noted: “Six of the individuals were arrested on the complaints of private property owners.”

“They want to hang out on the street,” Hitt said. “They want to be with each other.”

The police chief acknowledged the unusual number of arrests. Hitt believes it may be his way of a call to action.

“The homeless needs some place to be during the day that they can engage with providers,” she said. “We all need some place to be. If you don’t have a home, and if you don’t have a job, where are you?”

But in order to make a change, Hitt said police not only need to sit down with city officials to address the problem, but they also need to get the homeless involved in the conversation.

“Bringing in the homeless themselves and asking them – and we forget to do this – ‘What do you need?’” she said.

While most business owners are opposed to homeless people on their property, their concern can be brought up to city officials.

The police department strongly emphasized they do not target the homeless nor do they participate in sweeps in light of the upcoming tourist season.

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