October 24, 2021

Cortland County plans for warming center

Salvation Army warming center

S.N. Briere/staff reporter

The Salvation Army plans to let people in its dining area overnight during the cold months as part of a partnership with the Cortland County Department of Social Services and Grace and Holy Spirit Church to keep people warm similar to last year. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Salvation Army is also implementing new operating measures, including enforcing social distancing guidelines and sanitizing the facility.

Sunny and 73 degrees, as Monday was, may not be the time people worry about cold winter nights.

But they’re coming, and Cortland County officials said they are prepared to give people who need it a a warm and healthy place to go during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our target opening day is not yet set, but we are hoping to announce this before the end of November,” said Kristen Monroe, the commissioner of the county Department of Social Services in an email Friday.

State law mandates the county provide a warm place for people to go when the temperatures are 32 degrees or less — otherwise known as Code Blue. Last year, the county created a warming center, working with The Salvation Army and Grace and Holy Spirit Church.

The county will continue that collaboration this year.

Overnight hours will once again take place at The Salvation Army facility on south Main Street in Cortland, while the evening and weekend daytime hours will be at Grace and Holy Spirit Church on Court Street in Cortland. The Salvation Army will staff both locations.

“The warming centers are for anyone and everyone who needs them, but are intended to serve childless adults who are not otherwise eligible for Temporary Assistance,” Monroe said. “Individuals who have applied and are eligible for emergency temporary housing under our Temporary Assistance program rules must be housed in other temporary housing, typically a motel in our county. We will continue to place families in motels under Code Blue rather than having them go to the warming center for the well-being and safety of their children.”

However, if temperatures remain above 32 degrees for consecutive days, the centers will be closed. Monroe plans to keep people updated on the days the center is open on the Department of Social Services website.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Salvation Army is also implementing new operating measures, including enforcing social distancing guidelines and sanitizing the facility.

“This is important for the safety of visitors and of the staff,” Monroe said. “If the staff become sick, the centers will be forced to close.”

Salvation Army leaders could not be reached.

Because of the new measures, law enforcement agencies or the hospital must call ahead to alert the center of new arrivals to “allow staff to learn more about individuals and to assess their current health status to see if the warming center can safely accommodate them,” Monroe said.

Although new safety precautions must be taken because of the pandemic, Loaves and Fishes still plans to provide meals to anyone seeking one, Director Kim Hill said Monday.

“They can come and get one and take it downstairs to eat it,” she said.

Last year, the organization provided dinners on Wednesday and Fridays. It plans to do the same this year from 4 to 5:30 p.m Wednesdays and Fridays. But Hill said they also provide lunches to people.

Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays people can get a lunch from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and on Saturday people can pick up a bagged lunch from 11:30 a.m. to noon.