A measure awaiting final legislative approval in the New Jersey Senate would require all county governments to have a Code Blue plan in place to shelter homeless residents during severe weather events.
Mike Oppegaard is president of the New Jersey Association of Emergency Management Coordinators. He’s concerned about the costs of providing shelter and services if the severe conditions persist for several days. He wants lawmakers to consider state grants to offset that expense.
“The volunteer organizations that are out there are the same organizations that we all use during major disasters to help along with sheltering and things, and we just feel that the multiple-day events that these could occur on will put a strain on our resources and their resources as well,” Oppegaard said.
Senator Jeff Van Drew says 15 counties that already have Code Blue programs have found ways to control the expense.
“Sometimes they do work with churches. Sometimes they work with not-for-profits. Sometimes they’re using their county buildings and county organizations” Van Drew said. “Our only other option would be say we’re just going to let those people stay out there and freeze, and obviously that is not a humane approach to doing any of this.”
A count conducted a year ago found an estimated 8,900 people were homeless in New Jersey on any given night.