Thousands of people across the Delaware Valley are unhoused, and face significant challenges when confronted with severe winter weather.
How states, counties, and municipalities respond to extreme cold varies across the board. Most have “Code Blue” designations, or something comparable, that signal additional measures are in place to help protect people who are unsheltered.
Here’s how cities and counties across the Delaware Valley respond to dangerous cold, and what resources are made available to those in need.
During extremely cold weather — when temperatures feel near or below 20 degrees Fahrenheit — Philadelphia officials will declare a Code Blue.
During a Code Blue event, the city implements special measures to keep people who are experiencing homelessness safe. Those measures include 24-hour outreach to find unhoused people and transport them to safe indoor spaces and opening all available beds within the city’s emergency housing network for those in need.
If residents see a person who appears to be unhoused during a Code Blue, they are urged to contact the city’s Homeless Outreach hotline at 215-232-1984.
Residents concerned about an older adult during extremely cold weather are urged to contact Philadelphia Corporation for Aging at 215-765-9040.
When temperatures feel near or below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, Bucks County will declare a Code Blue.
A number of Bucks County nonprofits independently operate Code Blue Shelters during periods of extreme cold, and as volunteer capacity allows.
Chester County partners with different agencies to offer expanded services for people without adequate shelter, including the chronically homeless and homeless families with children.
Chester County residents who need shelter during winter months should call 211 for immediate assistance.
The Chester County Partnership to End Homelessness, a community collaborative, has its own Extreme Weather Emergency Shelter Policy (EWESP), which seeks to provide a safe environment for Chester County residents experiencing homelessness during times of extreme weather events.
Emergency shelters contracted with the Chester County Department of Community Development have agreed to institute EWESP guidelines when temperatures feel near or below 35 degrees.
Delaware County’s Department of Human Services, Adult and Family Services is responsible for declaring a Code Blue when the temperature is 32 degrees or below. Under the Delaware County Cold Weather Plan (CWP), which is in effect through April 1, 2024, the county coordinates with shelter services to assist vulnerable and unsheltered residents. If a shelter provider cannot provide shelter directly, vulnerable persons are referred to other programs for the evening.
Under Montco’s Code Blue emergency plan, periods of extreme, life-threatening weather — defined as a wind-chill factor of 20 degrees or below — multiple county agencies and private organizations offer expanded services for people without adequate shelter, including the chronically homeless and homeless families with children.
The Department of Public Safety is responsible for recommending Code Blue emergencies to the County Commissioners based on National Weather Service forecasts. Code Blue declarations are issued for a specific duration, usually in 24-hour increments.
Montco residents who need shelter during a Code Blue can call the Your Way Home Call Center at 211 or text 898-211.
A Code Blue declaration is made in Burlington County when frigid weather conditions pose a threat of serious harm or death to individuals or families without shelter. During a Code Blue, the county provides short-term shelter for people in need.
Residents in need of shelter are encouraged to contact one of the resources below. Staff will direct callers to the most appropriate shelter. After hours or on weekends or holidays, call 211 for assistance.
Under New Jersey law, all counties must have a plan in place to shelter unhoused individuals during severe weather.
Counties will issue Code Blue Alerts whenever the temperature drops below 25 degrees without precipitation, below 32 degrees with precipitation, and/or when the NWS wind chill temperature will be zero degrees or below for a period of two hours or more.
When the Camden County Health Officer declares a Severe Weather Emergency, municipalities activate their Code Blue response plan to accommodate the immediate needs of people who lack shelter.
Rescue Mission of Trenton
89 Ewing St., Trenton, NJ 08609
Under normal conditions, the shelter is open from 4 p.m. until 8 a.m. daily. When Code Blue Alerts are issued, the shelter is open 24 hours.
Code Purple is declared across the state by nonprofit and volunteer organizations that operate shelters to keep people who are homeless safe during dangerous winter weather.
Since most Code Purple sites are managed by volunteers, the activation and implementation of Code Purple varies by county and site.Delawareans can connect to Code Purple resources via Delaware 211 by calling or texting 211. Residents may also call the Delaware Housing Alliance’s Centralized Intake Line at 1-833-346-3233. Centralized Intake services are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Here’s a breakdown of community-driven resources for people experiencing homelessness in Delaware.
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