Our city has always been known for its beautiful and bustling downtown. Visitors from all over the world come to enjoy what Saratoga Springs has to offer, shopping and eating at the local businesses that have earned our Broadway a designation as one of America’s top ten Main Streets. Just a block away from Broadway, however, the problems of homelessness and housing insecurity are impossible to ignore. Despite the good and necessary work of non-profit organizations like Code Blue and the Saratoga County Housing Alliance, the problem has continued to worsen in recent years, even as many in our city thrive. The number of people sheltered annually at Code Blue has more than tripled since 2015, a stark reminder of the issues our city continues to face. It is past time for City Hall to get to work on helping our city’s growing unhoused population.
As our city’s economy has grown in recent years, many of our working families have been left behind and excluded from Saratoga’s prosperity. Even as many Saratogians donate their time and money to organizations that aim to help those left behind, the problem has only grown, and City Hall has largely left the difficult work to these non-profits. Saratoga County’s conversion of part of its Woodlawn Avenue building into a homeless outreach center is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done.
As the pandemic has worsened many already precarious economic situations, working families have begun to slip into housing insecurity and homelessness, along with individuals suffering from mental illness and chronic addiction. As Saratoga County Housing Authority Coordinator Laura Weil put it, “It really is a lot more families now, a lot of people that you wouldn’t think would be homeless.” City Hall must take a leading role in combating the slide into poverty that many of our working families are facing today.
As Mayor, I will work hard to use the power of City Hall to address this growing problem head-on. I will act quickly to convene a select mayoral task force on homelessness and housing insecurity, bringing together business leaders, non-profit workers, and working families to propose concrete action that will address the roots of housing insecurity in Saratoga Springs.
For too long, those in City Hall have tried to push the issue out of sight, herding our city’s homeless population onto buses and dropping them off in some other city, leaving them to find their way back. This is an unacceptable dereliction of duty, and as mayor, City Hall will instead work directly with struggling people and families to get them the resources they need.
I will also work to promote the construction of sustainable, affordable housing to help alleviate these issues. City Hall has always worked closely with our building developers, but too often this has led only to the construction of more luxury condominiums that few Saratogians can afford. I will work directly with these developers to facilitate new construction of sustainable, energy-efficient, and inexpensive housing units that will help those who may not be homeless, but still struggle to pay their monthly rent. By working directly with our city’s families, charitable organizations, and business leaders, I will do my absolute best to forge a citywide solution to the growing problems of homelessness and housing insecurity in our city.