Philly’s Code Blue cold sends homeless indoors, brings out warm hearts

With temperatures hovering from the low teens down to zero through the weekend, city officials issued a Code Blue Thursday night to help get Philadelphia’s homeless out of the cold.

About 130 people were contacted, and nearly three dozen homeless citizens were transported off the street Thursday night, said Marie Nahikian, director of the city’s Office of Supportive Housing.

The city issues a Code Blue when temperatures drop below 20 degrees – or 32 degrees when it’s snowing. One to three inches of snow expected Saturday.

Those unprepared for the cold Friday found proof of the city’s brotherly love in Franklin Square where knitted scarves, hats and gloves were tied to trees and free for the taking.

On Thursday night, two individuals were placed in open hospital beds for precaution. Though the housing office has a mandate to move people inside against their will, Nahikian said that when it’s this cold, there’s not much of a fight.

“Generally when it’s this cold, people will come in,” said Nahikian. “These numbers may be a little higher than usual because it’s very cold. All of our emergency shelter winter beds were filled.”

No negative incidents have been reported to her department yet this year, and she said it has been years since a homeless person died due to weather.

Nahikian said that outreach services run by the Department of Behavior Health would continue to work to provide shelter, as the Code Blue is expected to last through the weekend.

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