Code Blue means extra street crews to help homeless in Philadelphia

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In this file photo

In this file photo

The wintry weather means another round of “Code Blue” declarations. That translates into extra crews on the streets of Philadelphia trying to convince homeless people to come inside.

Between 400 and 700 chronically homeless people could be on city streets at any one time. Officials said the number fluctuates because, at the beginning of the month, some use assistance checks to pay for shelter.

David Holliman of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services said they add extra outreach workers to find those without a place to sleep. 

“Shelters aren’t at full capacity, so we do have room for people to come in if they decide to,” he said.

When winter is at its worst, Holliman said, even some of the most reluctant people do come inside.

“The one thing about challenging weather, it provides opportunity, so even people with enormous challenges — behavioral health challenges — do make the decision to come in,” he said. “Have we been 100 percent successful? No. But we are happy we can get people off the street, especially during extended periods of Code Blue, such as we have right now.”

The Code Blue has no end for now; officials are monitoring temperatures to see when things will stabilize. 

Code Blue emergency warnings are issued when the National Weather Service predicts wind chill temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit or below, or precipitation with temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

City officials urge concerned citizens who see someone living on the street to call Homeless Outreach at 215-232-1984 and report the sighting.

Homeless outreach teams are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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