High winds, low temps prompt early Code Blue in Philadelphia area

Joel Snyder, housing case manager for the Salvation Army in Norristown, sets up cots for the homeless in the organization's basement gym. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Joel Snyder, housing case manager for the Salvation Army in Norristown, sets up cots for the homeless in the organization's basement gym. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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Useful phone numbers:


  • Delaware County Adult and Family Services: 610-713-2571 or 610-713-2365
  • Montgomery County Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center: 610-292-9244
  • Philadelphia Office of Homeless Services: 215-232-1984

New Jersey

  • Burlington County CONTACT: 856-234-8888
  • Camden County Department of Health and Human Services at 800-999-9045
  • Cumberland County: 888-410-3973


  • New Castle County: 302-472-0750

Wind chills predicted to be below 20 degrees have prompted Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services and many suburban areas to declare the first Code Blue of the fall season.

Starting on Friday at 7 p.m. and ending on Sunday at 7 a.m., the city of Philadelphia will provide 80 extra beds within the emergency housing network to people who are homeless. In that time, the city’s homeless outreach team will ramp up to 24-hour coverage with increased staffing and foot patrols throughout the city.

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The main goal is to prevent weather-related deaths and prolonged exposure to extremely low temperatures by getting people off the streets and into shelters.

The Code Blue designation means that homeless people can remain indoors at shelters during the day, and it prohibits evictions or termination from emergency housing during this time. It also enables outreach teams and the police to implement the court-ordered transportation to shelter — known as COTS — procedure by alerting the city solicitor and Common Pleas Court judge on call.

The Office of Homeless Services discourages the public from providing the homeless with items such as sleeping bags, tents, mattresses, and food, which enable them to remain outside during the extreme cold rather than coming into a shelter. Anyone who sees an individual sleeping outdoors in Philadelphia between 7 p.m. Friday and on 7 a.m. Sunday can call Homeless Outreach at 215-232-1984.

Outreach workers will work through Sunday morning, when temperatures are expected to rise above freezing, said Liz Hersh, director of the office.

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“If we think anybody is not able to act in their own best interest, if they’re not adequately dressed or they’re really refusing help, then we might have to take other measures and go to the courts for what’s called a 302, a voluntary hospitalization,” she said.

Hersh said teams will be deployed to Center City and around the I-95 corridor, the epicenter of the city’s opioid crisis.

The forecast for Sunday, when the Code Blue ends in Philadelphia, calls for a high of 49 degrees with much calmer winds.

Counties with a Code Blue designation

Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

Montgomery County has called for a Code Blue starting Friday at 8 p.m. and ending Saturday at 8 a.m.

Residents of Montgomery County who need shelter during a Code Blue can go to the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center or CHOC in Building 53 at the Norristown State Hospital grounds. If needed, transportation will be provided. The CHOC is a 50-bed shelter for single residents. The phone number for the CHOC is 610-292-9244.

Burlington County, New Jersey

Burlington County has declared a Code Blue winter weather emergency from Friday at 7 p.m. until Saturday at 7 a.m.

Code Blue shelters in Burlington County are open at the Christian Caring Center, 378 Lakehurst Road, and Tabernacle of Praise Church, 271 Ridge Road, both in Pemberton Township; and at Extended Hand Ministries, 275 Holeman St., and Beacon of Hope, 41 Mill St., both in Mount Holly. For more information, call CONTACT of Burlington County at 856-234-8888.

Cumberland County, New Jersey

In Cumberland County, New Jersey, a Code Blue will go in effect Friday evening at 6 until Saturday morning at 6.

The following places will serve as warming centers:

  • Bridgeton: Bethany Grace Community Church, 31 N. Pearl St.
  • Vineland: First United Methodist, 700 E. Landis Ave. from 6 to 9 p.m. and then overnight hours at the Church of Resurrection at Eighth and Wood streets
  • Millville: Trinity United Methodist Church, Ben Corson Hall, 100 S. 2nd St.

No Code Blue declaration, but you can still help

The following places have yet to formally announce a cold weather emergency, but helpful links and information for those in need can be found below:

Camden County, New Jersey

Those seeking shelter in a warming center should contact their local municipality.  Additional resources are available by calling the Camden County Department of Health and Human Services at 800-999-9045, or by visiting www.camdencounty.com.

Camden County Shelters and Emergency Housing

Camden Homeless Shelters & Services For The Needy

Delaware County, Pennsylvania

For information on cold weather emergencies or to obtain a copy of the current Emergency Shelter Directory and Survival Guide, contact Adult and Family Services at 610-713-2571 or 610-713-2365.

If you see a homeless person on the street, call  267-258-1974 (Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-7 p.m.) or 855-889-7827 (weekends and evenings).

Delaware County 2016-17 Cold Weather Plan with list of shelters

New Castle County, Delaware

Code Purple locations (Delaware’s equivalent to Code Blue) have been established across Delaware to help the homeless find a warm local place of refuge. Hours of operation vary by county and site. In New Castle County, the lead agency for cold weather emergency shelters is Friendship House, which operates two Code Purple winter sanctuary programs — one in Wilmington and the other in Newark at the Newark Empowerment Center.  The Wilmington program is a collaboration with the Salvation Army.

Delaware Code Purple information

Salvation Army- Code Purple

Emergency and Transitional Housing Services

Aaron Moselle contributed to this report.

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