Saratoga needs a no-questions-asked shelter for homeless

Sunday, December 22, 2013
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Saratoga needs a no-questions-asked shelter for homeless

Re Dec. 17 article, “Death points to challenge of helping city’s homeless”: After a tragic situation, we often hear people say something should be done so the person did not die in vain.

It really gets personal when it is someone we know in the military, or it is a tragedy like the Sandy Hook school massacre, which left 26 dead — all of whom we could identify with as parents or teachers.

But few can identify with Nancy Pitts, the 54-year-old woman who froze to death in the bitter cold Dec. 12, on a loading dock at the Saratoga Senior Center.

Unfortunately, the homeless are people the rest of us wish we did not have to see. That is why they are told to leave business and social establishments they hang around, where they may try to keep warm or scrounge for food and money. So the homeless return after closing, hoping to find a place to sleep.

If they are seen, they are either ignored or someone might feel relief by pointing out to them that social services are available. But as we found out, these centers require identification, such as a Social Security number. This enables them to help the homeless improve their lives through education and guidance, which may even lead to jobs. For the protection of those wanting to better themselves, these centers do not accept addicts or the mentally disturbed.

We do not know anything about Nancy, other than she was 54. We don’t know if she tried to get into a shelter or not. We don’t know if she had mental problems, if she was addicted, or if she was too proud to accept any help. We do know that Saratoga does not participate in what is called a Code Blue program, which provides temporary shelter for the homeless with no identification required.

We also know there have been cases in which the state police have dropped the homeless off in a county that does belong to the Code Blue program. While that may have saved a few lives, it does not seem fair that Saratoga does not step up to the plate and provide a temporary place for the homeless during severely cold nights. Neither do the differences each county has in the waiting period for welfare sign-ups seem fair, as some are told they can get benefits more quickly by going to a county with a shorter waiting period.

As noted, we do not know if Nancy ever tried to get social service help. But we do know she did not have an option at the end where she could be sent to a shelter on a cold night with no questions asked. She froze to death on a cold loading dock.

Nancy should not die in vain. Saratoga County needs to join Code Blue and provide a temporary shelter with no questions asked. The new mayor, Joanne Yepsen, announced she will try to find such a place. Hopefully this will happen. It would be nice if the facility were called the Nancy Pitts Shelter.

Mary Kuykendall-Weber

Middle Grove

Non-native plant species threaten Spa ecosystem

Saratoga Springs is proud to be the “city in the country.” However, we have to ask ourselves how best to ensure that our city maintains its own “internal country.”

A recent survey of the street trees remaining within city limits indicates that we are in danger of obliterating our native plants and replacing them with exotics, such as the Norway maple and burning bush.

Our local ecosystems will not thrive with non-native species. Exotic species do not provide the food or shelter needed, such that birds, bees and butterflies are threatened. Native fauna have evolved in symbiotic relationship with native flora.

We do not envision a beautiful, but sterile, environment, although that is where we are headed if we don’t change our habits. The DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation] is considering a ban on some exotics, but has inexplicably not included Norway maple and burning bush. These two non-native plants are the worst “pests” we have in our city, and we need to replace them with native trees and shrubs. We need to protect our native ecosystems if they are to thrive.

Tell DEC it must ban Norway maples and burning bushes. It is overdue and essential to healthy, vibrant and natural urban environments.

C. Mark Lawton

Saratoga Springs

Property tax freeze not good enough for seniors

In the Dec. 10 Gazette, I read with great distress that Gov. Cuomo is considering a tax freeze, instead of an income-based circuit breaker, for school and municipal taxes.

The governor claims that local taxes are “crushing New Yorkers,” and I agree. But since when does freezing a crushing tax burden amount to relief; it simply keeps people crushed and suffering.

As the Gazette article stated, our system is outdated. It goes back to when people derived their income from their property — hardly true today.

I currently live on a pension, so my hopes were that the state would elect circuit breakers for property taxes. I would think that a circuit breaker of 10 percent of income for property tax would seem fair, especially to our senior citizens, and perhaps enable them to remain in their homes.

I have lived in New York and paid property taxes here for over 54 years.

Anyone reading this who also has a “crushing” local tax burden should write to the governor and support a fairer circuit breaker on local taxes to relieve us.

Corinne Cazer

Niskayuna

Celebrate the season, but easy on the drink

During this season, Americans shouldn’t abuse alcohol.

Celebrate the birth of Jesus and live, don’t die from accidents. People have no right to kill others due to drunken driving.

Life is precious for family and friends; don’t disregard that. Everything in moderation is more important than getting high or low.

Parents took so much time, money, care, and love to raise you to adulthood. Don’t waste their efforts within minutes. Take responsibility for your life. Do good to family, society, country and residents.

Mercy Premsager

Glenville

Niskayuna police caught napping on theft, too

We read the recent story of the Niskayuna police failing to properly investigate a rape case that was ultimately dismissed by the court and realized that we had a similar experience with Niskayuna police in their failure to properly investigate a crime [Dec. 7 Gazette].

In February 2012, a painter we had hired stole jewelry, silver, credit cards and other personal belongings from our home in Niskayuna. We called police, who came to our home and took DNA samples.

Despite numerous calls to the authorities, this individual was never arrested by Niskayuna police. In May 2013, we contacted a town official to ask about the status of the case and were told that the Niskayuna police were still investigating and had not yet received the DNA results.

In contrast, the Saratoga Springs police arrested him for using our credit cards in a Price Chopper store in that jurisdiction and successfully prosecuted him for a felony. That case was concluded by the fall of 2012.

We had hoped for some prompt attention by the Niskayuna police in case some of our personal property, which included a wedding ring and heirloom family silver, could be recovered.

We realize that Niskayuna police are not likely to bother arresting him for a crime that was committed one year and 10 months ago, even though another police department was able to do so in a timely manner.

Patricia Rodriguez

Robert Colborn

Niskayuna

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