We believe it is right to:
- Help the homeless and provide for those in need
- Ensure the safety of school children
That said, given the population that will travel to and from and inherently be in close proximity to a low barrier shelter, low barrier shelters should not be located near schools, playgrounds or day-care centers.
Stereotyping any group, including the homeless is not appropriate. While the homeless population is often associated with mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, criminal convictions, etc., homeless shelters also house those, including families, who have just fallen on hard times.
A low barrier homeless shelter is defined as an Emergency Shelter that does not require any of the following for a client to stay at the shelter: (i) criminal background checks, (ii) credit checks or income verification, (iii) program participation, (iv) sobriety, or (v) identification.
- Can a longer-term shelter also be “low-barrier”? Yes.
- Do these shelters usually have rules? Yes. Rules such as not allowing violence, drug and alcohol abuse on premises are common.
- Will all homeless people take advantage of these shelters? No. Many chose to remain in more free communal environments free of rules and forms of controls.
- Will the homeless population in communities where these shelters are placed decrease? No. The numbers of homeless in a community is often tied to broader economic issues, regional climate, the willingness and ability of the local residents to contribute and the availability of need resources in general.
While not all homeless people present a risk, the homeless population in general does include those that could pose a risk to school children. Low barrier shelters do not require tests for drugs or alcohol or background checks for individuals using the shelter, which poses increased risk.
While restrictions vary, in New York State there are regulations intended to keep schools free from drugs, alcohol and firearms and individuals with certain criminal backgrounds. The protected area around a school can be subject to increased penalties and fines.
See zoning map below to view school areas.
Here is the City of Saratoga Springs zoning map. The areas in light blue are where Saratoga Springs students are required by New York State law to attend school everyday. We feel that careful consideration should be given when deciding what goes near the most innocent and vulnerable of our community - our children.