Code Blue in Effect, but Troy Shelter Won't Force People To Stay

When the temperature is 12 degrees in Troy, the doorbell inside Joseph's House rings non-stop all through the night.  

"They're all in here for one reason: because they're cold," said Jay Valentino, a homeless man who says Joseph's House "saved his life." 

The Troy shelter on Ferry Street is an emergency 24-hour shelter, and usually they ask you a few questions.

"That's the biggest problem, because you got so much red tape to go through," said Valentino. 

When Code Blue is in place, Valentino sees a lot more than the regulars, because when the blue flag goes up outside the brick building, you walk in and you immediately get a meal and a bed.

"I appreciate the mayor serving me," Valentino said as newly elected Troy Mayor Patrick Madden plopped corn on his plate.

"By definition, the homeless population needs homes. That's pretty obvious," Madden said.

The new mayor served on the board of Joseph's House back in the 1980s and is seeking permanent housing solutions to combat the homeless problem. The Executive Director of Joseph's House, Kevin O'Connor, agrees with Madden. And while Governor Andrew Cuomo's executive order that mandates homeless people go to shelters when the temperature drops below 32 degrees is drawing attention to the issue, O'Connor is not so sure it's going to work.

"If involuntary services worked, we'd be out of business," O'Connor said.

Code Blue works through word of mouth and volunteers asking people if they need a warm place to stay. If a person denies that option, the shelter won't force them.

"I don't think that we would force them to stay here," said O'Connor. "We don't have the power to restrain them, to keep an individual here."

O'Connor would like to see Governor Cuomo take action on funding 35,000 supportive housing units across the state. It's a plan supported by many lawmakers and advocates. He'll be crossing his fingers the Governor brings that up in his State of the State address next week.

In the meantime, Joseph's House is always accepting donations. You can donate on its website here, or drop off things like clothing, toiletries and bedding at 74 Ferry Street any time.

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