2015-01-14 / Front Page

City Calls ‘Code Blue’ To Warm The Homeless

BY LIZ GOFF
Workers with the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) last week hit the streets on a “Code Blue” mission to try to coax the homeless out of the snow and frigid temperatures and into city shelters.

DHS officials declare a “Code Blue” each time the thermometer dips below 32 degrees, sending outreach teams into neighborhoods to seek out the homeless and convince them to head indoors.

When a Code Blue is called, DHS officials double the amount of outreach teams on the streets overnight, to seek out the homeless who huddle in doorways and shiver on street corners, an agency spokesperson said.

The outreach teams join forces with Emergency Medical Services and local police to try to prevent hypothermia and frostbite in the homeless. The teams scoured Queens neighborhoods during last week’s record low temperatures and managed to help several people to the warmth of city hospitals and shelters, authorities said.

“Convincing people who live on the streets to go to a shelter for even one night is no easy task,” authorities said. “Even the most frigid temperatures are not enough to make some people leave their few belongings behind to stay in a shelter. Many of the homeless have mental health issues that keep them on the street and interfere with their judgment to get out of the cold,” authorities said.

DHS officials reminded Queens residents that the 2014 “Code Blue” enforcement includes single homeless individuals and homeless families who require shelter from the cold..

Outreach teams last week scoured Ditmars Boulevard, 30th Avenue, Steinway Street, Broadway and 36th Avenue in their search for homeless.

“The teams located two or three individuals on the commercial strips,” authorities said.  “The teams check locations several times before determining there are no homeless at a specific site. They know exactly where to look for people who might be in trouble.

 Wicked winds sent temperatures plummeting in Queens to a bone chilling 3 to 5 degrees overnight on January 2nd and 3rd, with daytime highs reaching only about 20 degrees.

DHS officials are urging area residents to call 311 for assistance if they see a homeless individual in need of assistance. Officials said New Yorkers should only call 911 if they see a person in need of immediate medical assistance.

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