The blast of cold air over the next several days has turned temperatures into dangerous winter weather. For homeless populations, this time of the year could mean life or death..
“Freezing cold temperatures and winter weather are no joke. Extreme cold poses danger for all New Yorkers, but especially those at risk for hypothermia, like those who are homeless, those without heat at home, and those who drink heavily or use drugs and become incapacitated outdoors,” said New York City Health Commission Dr. Oxiris Barbot.
Colder cities in the northern part of the country have taken measures such as Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit school closures. New York City asks residents to stay indoors as much as possible.
The most at-risk population during the Artic blast are homeless populations. Boston, Philadelphia, Newark and NYC issued a Code Blue, an alert put into effect during freezing air that guides residents on ways to stay safe, as well as announce locations of homeless shelters.
❄️ The #CodeBlue is in effect until further notice for the city of Philadelphia. Due to extremely cold conditions, the City is implementing special measures to keep people who are homeless safe. If you see someone who needs shelter, call (215) 232-1984. pic.twitter.com/2LZAI6mgmc— Project HOME (@ProjectHOME) January 29, 2019
In Newark, New Jersey, a city just a 20-minute train ride from New York City, a Code Blue was not put into effect. An overarching issue is the cities growing homeless population and limited shelters. Although the city issued a list of six temporary housing locales, last night, Penn Station, the main public transportation depot in the largest city in New Jersey, served as temporary shelter for hundreds.
The awkward navigation between commuters and those who use the station to find warmth and a place to sleep have been more of a concern since the city’s recent redevelopment boom in its downtown area. Dealing with a high influx of transient population, more transit and local law enforcement canvas the area.
Community activist Donna Jackson noted in a 2018 Code Blue, “There are still people sleeping on the streets.”
Last night, Jackson posted on Facebook asking if there were churches who could help provide shelter.
Jackson proposed that that the city use the hundreds of empty homes that it owns as a way to provide housing for homeless and poor residents. Last year, Baltimore considered filling its 16,000 vacant homes with displaced people.
As city populations increase, Cold Blue weather concerns will rise.