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Dec 14, 2023 | Nancy Chen

Code Blue: Connecting Homeless People to Emergency Shelter in Extreme Cold Weather

No unhoused person seeking shelter will be denied during a Cold Blue alert.

The cold weather hitting New York poses a harsh challenge for people who are unhoused. As the temperature drops below freezing, a Code Blue weather emergency alert will be enacted, allowing homeless people to access shelters without going through the regular intake process. This guide will provide you with information on finding a shelter under Code Blue alert.

As a newsroom devoted to covering immigrant communities, Documented has compiled a comprehensive guide for immigrant New Yorkers. This article is part of the guide.

What is Code Blue and how to apply for shelters under this condition?

Code Blue notice is issued when the temperature drops to or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m., including National Weather Service calculations for wind chill values, according to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS). No unhoused person seeking shelter will be denied during a Cold Blue alert.

Three options will be available for people without housing:

  • Shelters: Shelters are open to anyone who is reasonably believed to be homeless and is brought by outreach teams. Walk-ins are also available.
  • Drop-in centers: Drop-in centers are open 24 hours a day when Code Blue is in effect.
  • Street homeless outreach: Outreach groups will contact vulnerable individuals on their Code Blue Priority Lists to ensure safety and bring them to shelter.

If you are unhoused in need of assistance, please call 311 or 212-639-9675.

Read More: How To Access Emergency Shelter in NYC

What changes will there be when Code Blue is in effect?

According to the Coalition for the Homeless, the following changes are made during a Code Blue alert:

  • Anyone in need shall be admitted to shelters for the night without undergoing the usual intake and eligibility check.
  • Clients can access any shelter for the night without being limited to their assigned shelter.
  • More outreach teams will be offering services on the streets.
  • No shelter suspensions or sanctions shall be carried out on these days.

What should I do if I see someone that appears to be unhoused?

You can call 311 to request outreach assistance, after which a Service Request will be created and assigned to a social service provider or an agency. An outreach team will then be dispatched, encouraging the individual to accept services after assessing for safety.

You can call 911 if you believe the individual is at an immediate risk to themselves or others.

Also Read: New York Announces 60-Day Limit to Stays in City Shelters

What are service buses?

The DHS puts five service buses across Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx to offer unsheltered individuals temporary respite from outdoor conditions at night. Staff are on-site to provide help to each person. Here is where people can locate service buses:

Penn Station (34th St. + 7th Ave.)  
Closest subway station: A/C/E train to 34 St./Penn Station 

Bellevue Hospital (E. 30th St. between FDR Drive + 1st Ave.)  
Closest subway station: 6 train to 28 Street Station  

Queens Hospital Center (82-68 164th St., Jamaica, NY 11432) 
Closest subway station: F train to Parsons Boulevard Station  

Elmhurst Hospital Center (79-01 Broadway, Queens, NY 11373) 
Closest subway station: 7 train to 82 Street Station 

Lincoln Hospital (234 E. 149th St., Bronx, NY 10451) 
Closest subway station: 4/5 train to 149 St.-Grand Concourse Station  

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