Philadelphia working to bring chronically homeless in from cold

As the streak of bitterly cold weather continues, so does a “Code Blue” in Philadelphia. The city has dispatched teams to search the streets for the chronically homeless who don’t want to go to shelters.

Marcella Maguire, who directs the city’s Department of Behavioral Health’s homeless services, says the outreach teams have been making contact with the homeless individuals still out in the cold and moving them into the most appropriate type of shelter.

“We’ve transported 45 people off the streets to places,” Maguire said Wednesday afternoon before another night of temperatures in the teens. “We’ve also gotten 26 people into shelters and eight people into safe havens, which are small specialized shelters. We’ve taken people to ERs and crisis centers, whatever it is that the individuals need.”

A “Code Blue” is declared when the National Weather Bureau predicts a wind-chill temperature of 20 degrees or below or precipitation with temperatures below 32 degrees.

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Since the temperature began plummeting Sunday night, outreach teams have talked to Philadelphia’s hard-core homeless more than 300 times. 

“The outreach workers are more dedicated and more focused in weather like this,” Maguire said. “They are really saving lives out there, they do it all year round, but it’s really clear they are saving lives on a night like tonight.”

Maguire says the outreach teams are experienced with dealing with those who refuse to come in from even this bitter cold weather.

“We’ve built relationships over time. So, one, we are able to get a significant number of people in,” she said. “Two, we’re also aware of who can survive out there and those who can’t, and we are checking on (them) on a regular basis.”

If you see someone in need of assistance, you can call the behavioral health hotline at 215-232-1984.

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