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How to help the Capital Region’s homeless population this winter

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How to help the Capital Region’s homeless population this winter

Last Thursday morning, six handmade quilts arrived at the Homeless and Travelers Aid Society’s main office on Central Avenue in Albany. By that evening, the quilts would be on a bed at one of the charity’s supportive housing units, HATAS development director Tom Whalen told The Alt.

Whalen cited the quilts as an example of how the agency welcomes and appreciates all kinds of donations, particularly during the holiday season. For less creatively inclined, would-be donors, Whalen suggested toiletries, clothing, gently used furniture—HATAS opened a furniture bank last year on Anderson Drive—and diapers (especially sizes three and four, another staffer said).  

The Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, a nonprofit that runs a drop-in center in Albany’s Sheridan Hollow, has a similar wishlist. Washcloths, men’s coats, and boots are all in “high demand” right now, said IPH communications director Erin Coufal, and laundry detergent and toiletries are needed year-round. The City Mission of Schenectady, which houses about 100 people every night, also told The Alt it needs some of the same items—plus new socks.

There are also many ways to volunteer for charities that help the local homeless population.

“Our most popular volunteer opportunity is making a meal,” said Coufal, the IPH spokesperson. “Donors cook in our kitchen or theirs and serve guests their tasty home cooking at our shelter.”

The City Mission of Schenectady maintains an online portal where potential volunteers can browse opportunities—serving meals, sorting clothing, packing bags of food—and sign up for shifts. Orientations and tours are also offered for people seeking more intensive opportunities, like covering a reception desk or teaching a class.

Joseph’s House and Shelter, a charity based in Troy, runs a program called Inn From The Cold through April. (Disclosure: I volunteered for this program last winter on a handful of nights.) Every night, up to fifteen guests stay at a local church. A Joseph’s House staffer and a volunteer or two sleep in the same room. The program leaves extra space at the agency’s Ferry Street building to accommodate guests for a “Code Blue” program, where any homeless person can access temporary shelter when the temperature dips below freezing.

Other agencies and counties also have or support Code Blue programs, informed by the state constitution and an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Here are a few charities that assist the homeless in the Capital District:

Shelters of Saratoga
14 Walworth St., Saratoga Springs
(518) 581-1097

Joseph’s House and Shelter
74 Ferry St., Troy
(518) 272-2544

Homeless and Travelers Aid Society
138 Central Ave., Albany
(518) 463-2124

The City Mission of Schenectady
425 Hamilton St., Schenectady
(518) 346-2275

Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless
176 Sheridan Ave., Albany
(518) 434-8021

Capital City Rescue Mission
259 South Pearl St., Albany
(518) 462-0459

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