ALBANY COUNTY Sheehy Palmer VFW Post 6776 Commander Jimmy Ader said the concept of sleeping outside to show concern for homeless veterans came to him like many of his other ideas — straight out of the blue.
“I was walking into the Post and it was freezing cold and I was like, ‘Man, I’m glad I’m not homeless. Oh, (the Post) should do something about that.’ And the ‘Freeze Out’ was born,” Ader said.
The first-ever “Freeze Out” took place on Saturday, Jan. 26, into the following morning. More than 20 people slept outside on the lawn of the VFW Post at 525 Delaware Ave. to experience the grueling Capital District temperatures the way homeless veterans do. Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, who is a member of the Sheehy Palmer Post, joined in, as did members of the Fort Orange American Legion, setting up on the lawn from 3 p.m. until a pancake breakfast at 10 a.m. the following day.
“It’s a great idea to shine a light on homeless veterans,” McCoy said. “It is alarming the rate of (homeless veterans), especially homeless women, is shocking.”
Jackets, coats, gloves and hats were collected at the event part of the VFW’s already month-long clothing drive for area veterans.
“Everyone has an extra jacket or gloves. Donate it. Give it to a good cause,” McCoy said.
About 100 coats and 250 sweaters were collected throughout the day.
“The outpouring support has been really overwhelming,” Ader said. “A lot of community support showing through the donations.”
With a high of 18 degrees during the day and the mercury dropping as low as 4 degrees overnight, the “Freeze Out” participants were able to get a sense of what it is like to live on the Albany streets in the winter. But they were also able to keep two fires burning continuously throughout the night after receiving city permits, and the New York National Guard donated sleeping bags rated for weather below 10 degrees.