Jefferson County opens temporary shelter until winter storm passes

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WATERTOWN — Jefferson County has helped open up a temporary place for homeless people to shelter from the winter storm that has hit the north country.

The county has arranged for the former DealMaker Auto Group body shop on Main Avenue — owned by local businessman P.J. Simao — to be a place for homeless people who had been living under the J.B. Wise parking lot pavilion to get out from the cold until the storm ends.

The building was opened late Friday afternoon as the winter storm continued to hit the area.

People were told they could take their belongings and donated blankets and other items to the Main Avenue building, where they could stay until the blizzard is over.

“It is temporary,” said County Legislator Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown, who helped arrange for them to use the building. “It’s not the end-all answer. It is temporary. They will have four walls and heat and be out of the cold.”

For weeks, the unhoused have been living under the Joseph M. Butler Sr. Pavilion, some putting up tents and staying in sleeping bags.

With the storm approaching Thursday night, about 15 people gathered under the pavilion to ride out the bitter cold. Numbers can vary from night to night.

“We can’t make anyone leave,” Mr. Gray said. “They can continue to make bad decisions but it’s then not on us.”

Volunteers have come forward to monitor the people staying in the building.

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