Pa. counties mobilize to get homeless indoors as temps plunge

Emergency shelters remain open in the Philadelphia region as a cold snap continues into the weekend.

Penny Martin works with Advocates for Homeless and Those in Need, which sends a bus on frigid nights to pick people up in Lower Bucks County.

“It was difficult driving last night, but we were able to get the guests in and all the guests transported out again today,” Martin said. “We will be open tonight and tomorrow night. So, far we have full staff.”

“Code blue” shelters are opened throughout the region on an emergency basis when the temperature drops to dangerous levels.

Montgomery County’s main shelter, the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center, was filled beyond its capacity of 67 on Thursday night. 

“They now have 74 people staying there,” reported county spokesman, Frank Custer, “and just sent four women to the Salvation Army shelter in Norristown.”

Marcella Maguire directs homeless services in Philadelphia, which has been coordinating with nonprofits and police to canvass the streets as temperatures were expected to fall into the single digits overnight Friday.

After bringing about 70 people to shelters yesterday, volunteers in the city are checking in with about 30 individuals Maguire believes remain outside.

“We know who they are. We’re engaging them. We’re checking on them and making sure they get through this really bad night,” she said.

She urged Philadelphia residents to call the hotline staffed by Project Home at 215-232-1984.

“We’ve had over 50 calls in the last day or so, and they’ve really made a difference to save people’s lives,” Maguire said. “So keep that number handy and let us know if anyone’s still out there.”

The hotline is only in for use in Philadelphia County. So far, Maguire said, there have been no cold-related hospitalizations. 

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.