NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Should the city offer shelter to homeless people when it’s warmer than 20 degrees?
New Brunswick operates its Code Blue program, which provides a place for the homeless to spend the night when the temperature drops below 20 degrees or at least 6 inches of snow fall on the ground.
But those guidelines might not be enough to protect homeless people, local activist Eric Nuber said during the Jan. 18 New Brunswick City Council meeting.
“The hard and fast 20-degree temperature cutoff does little to aid on many frigid nights and instances of inclement weather,” said Nuber, who spoke on behalf of concerned residents and activists. “We are here to ask the City Council to seriously look into allocating additional municipal resources to expanding and bolstering the current Code Blue program.”
For six years, the soup kitchen Elijah’s Promise was the primary Code Blue operator in the area. The city revised the program this winter, taking full control and operating shelters in the basement of City Hall, the Henry Guest House and the community room at the New Brunswick Authority building.
Keith Jones II, the city’s community organization specialist, said last night that the new program offers enough space to accommodate 60 to 80 people, an increase from last year.
What’s more, Jones said, some municipalities don’t kick Code Blue into gear until the temperature hits 15 degrees. Middlesex County, on the other hand, opens its doors at 25 degrees, he said.
“So 20 degrees is the best temperature that we can manage,” Jones told the activist.
Nuber and his peers run a food and clothing drive at the train stations each Sunday, he said. He said they’ve talked with homeless people there who consider the 20-degree benchmark insufficient.
If the city were to open shelters and warming stations when it’s 25 degrees and snowing, Nuber added, that might keep homeless people safer.
“They’re worried,” he said.
New Brunswick stocks the temporary shelters with cots, blankets, toiletries and first aid kits. The city also uses municipal vehicles to transport homeless people to the outposts.
Over six nights this winter, New Brunswick has taken in more than 14 guests from the city and elsewhere.