SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – With dangerous temperatures Friday night, the City Mission in Schenectady patrolled the city’s streets in an attempt to help those who need it most. The organization using a van, fully stocked with supplies, to bring people to shelter if needed.
“Tonight is life and death,” said Michael Saccocio, the Executive Director of the City Mission.
Saccocio says the van has been a game changer, especially on nights when temperatures dip to life threatening levels, “We would walk the streets on nights like tonight. You can only go so far, and you can only carry so much gear. So now we have a lot of supplies for people, and I think maybe the biggest thing is transporting people.”
The van has been out over the last several weeks with the low temperatures. Typically, they offer cold weather gear and food, but on night’s like this, they do everything they can to make sure everyone they encounter has a safe place to go.
Eddie Polanco helps lead the charge, “I am them. The same story, similar, I’m in recovery, I was homeless, so I’m not helping them when I see them, I’m helping me.”
Thinking back to his past, he says he thinks outside the box to try to locate the homeless, “When I go out there, I’m looking under benches, cubby holes, areas where you might not think somebody may be. In this kind of weather, for somebody to be in a cubby hole and fall asleep, they might not wake up.”
Saccocio says that unique experience is invaluable, especially as some people may be skittish at the idea of visiting a shelter.
“People know he knows their story, and when Eddie says help is available, people pay attention,” he said.
Polanco’s leadership has also helped people get help beyond a single night in a shelter, the executive director said, with some people going on to get treatment they need.
With Friday’s brutally cold temperatures, the City Mission anticipated having its beds full. To ensure as many people had a warm place to spend the night, they prepped mats on the floor to maximize capacity.