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Local shelters work to keep homeless warm as Code Blue continues

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Local shelters work to keep homeless warm as Code Blue continues

A Code Blue alert, intended to assist municipalities in protecting vulnerable citizens during cold weather by directing them to shelter, will be in effect this weekend in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties. 

The one-two punch of below-freezing temperatures and a winter storm created a unique situation in Atlantic City, but not one the city’s largest homeless shelter wasn’t ready for.

“This is what we prepare for. This is what we do,” said Dan Brown, president and CEO of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission.

During Thursday’s storm, which dropped nearly a foot of snow on the city, the Rescue Mission saw an increase in people seeking shelter. Brown said the shelter can accommodate about 200 people on an average day, and the winter months bring the shelter close to capacity.

It was a busy afternoon Friday as staff handled incoming people and continued to serve those currently staying at the shelter.

“We have outreach teams and officers at the bus terminal and train station who help take in individuals,” Brown said. “Thursday night, a lot of people came to us because they couldn’t get out of the city. They may not be homeless, but they needed a safe place to stay.”

Staff and volunteers who stayed through the storm helped keep the Rescue Mission open.

“We have accommodations for staff to stay, and people who have trucks and cars offer to pick up volunteers. When something like this happens, you really see the community at work,” Brown said.

Brown said it would be business as usual going into the weekend, as the bitter temperatures and snow-removal process continue.

A Code Blue alert — under which authorities seek to find shelter for the city’s homeless in below-freezing temperatures — has been in effect since Dec. 26.

The Rescue Mission is contracted by the city as an official warming center.

“Those who need assistance during the Code Blue are transported to the Rescue Mission,” police Sgt. Kevin Fair said.

Atlantic County has issued several Code Blue alerts this winter, the latest in effect until Monday. Warming centers and temporary daytime shelters are established by each municipality. In Egg Harbor Township, the municipal building lobby serves as the designated shelter from the cold, Police Chief Raymond Davis said.

Bill Southrey, president of Haven/Beat the Streets, says his organization has gotten many calls from people seeking shelter. Southrey, who has helped the homeless for nearly four decades, uses his resources to coordinate shelters in Atlantic and Ocean counties.

“We’ll refer them to the shelters and the Rescue Mission, but if people need help, we’ll use funding and put them up in motels in Absecon, Pleasantville and Egg Harbor Township,” said Southrey. “I’m willing to jump in and help any way I can.”

Haven/Beat the Streets is working with two shelters in Ocean County at the First Assembly of God Church in Toms River and the Lakewood Community Center.

“If someone in Atlantic County needed help, we would take them up there,” said Southrey. “My hope is that no one has to go out in the cold again.”

Contact: 609-272-7286

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Staff Writer

Joined the Press in November 2016. Graduate of Quinnipiac University. Previously worked as a freelance reporter in suburban Philadelphia and news/talk radio producer.

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