Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association seeks input on homeless, panhandling

SARATOGA SPRINGS- Businesses in downtown Saratoga Springs are being asked to fill out a survey about the impact of homeless people and panhandlers on their business.

The survey, conducted by the city’s trade association, allows respondents to remain anonymous but says that “While you can choose to remain anonymous, please represent DBA Findings best, your name, business location and email will be most helpful at the end of the survey.

The survey asks nine questions, some of which include follow-up questions such as; Is Homelessness Affecting Your Employees? Negative or positive? Please provide further details in 3a below.

Surveys allow owners to provide video or photos.

“The purpose of the survey is to gather information from the business community and then present that information [the] City Council, so we can address issues together,” Heidi West, DBA vice president, said in an email.

She said members’ concerns about homelessness are growing.

“The voice of our business community is important and this survey is a tool to ensure that voice is heard,” she said. “The DBA Homeless Task Force was created in 2021 to respond to the ongoing concerns of our community, businesses and visitors. We work in collaboration with organizations such as RISE, Saratoga Shelters, Franklin Community Center, Wellspring and others. As part of the continuum of care in Saratoga County, we work as partners to compassionately address issues that may arise around our displaced population.”

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In October, the City Council heard from several residents who opposed a panhandling ordinance that would have Prohibition of withdrawals at various locations in the city, including within 20 feet of an ATM; In any area, street or tunnel in a parking garage, lot or station or on any sidewalk or public right-of-way adjacent to such areas. The council did not vote on the ordinance.

Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino said he has no plans to bring it back at this time.

Kathryn Hamilton, owner of Putnam Market, said she saw the survey but did not buy it. She said they live with homeless people every day, who are outside their store in the parking garage in front of or behind them.

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“A few years ago they were very unregulated,” she said. “Now, even though it’s scary for people who use the parking garage and aren’t used to it, they stay around the parking garage.”

She personally says hello to them when she gets into or leaves her car.

“They know not to ask me for money because I will never give it and I treat them like human beings and they are very kind to me,” she said.

She said generally they don’t have any problems either.

“There’s a few people that come in and always steal it so when they get here we’re like, ‘Well you can’t come back here anymore,'” she said.

She said while she hasn’t had any problems they do raise concerns for people who aren’t used to them or are from the area.

She said: “They come into town – it’s scary for some people to park in a parking garage because they have to go through a bunch of people, sometimes drunk or high, asking for money. ” “In that respect it affects me because we count traffic behind our door and our homeless population is outside our door.”

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Haley Stevens, owner of Saratoga Tea and Honey Co., said she hasn’t seen the survey yet, but “would love to take it.”

She said on Friday that she was too busy to comment further on the matter.

Saratoga Executive Director Devin Vaughn said he hopes the survey will be used to determine ways to help the homeless.

“I have spoken to the DBA and they have been very helpful to us,” he said. “SOS should be an asset to the community, an asset to businesses, so if they need our help we’re here.”

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