Monroe County, shelters to make more beds and warming centers available during Code Blue
To contend with the frigid weather that has returned to Rochester, area homeless shelters have worked with Monroe County officials to increase the number of “Code Blue” beds and warming shelters, County Executive Adam Bello said Wednesday.
Code Blue goes into effect any time the temperature falls below 32 degrees in the evening, with wind chill taken into consideration. The county and its partners then find shelter for all homeless people, even if they wouldn’t otherwise be eligible for county emergency housing assistance. Monroe County had its first Code Blue of the year on Nov. 21.
“It's a team approach here this year on Code Blue,” Bello said during a news conference at the County Office Building. “We have some new partners at the table, some new procedures and a lot of new ways of outreach to be able to reach people and provide access to the Code Blue shelters.”
In the past, the only warming centers and Code Blue shelters were Open Door Mission and House of Mercy. This year, beds and warming centers also will be available at a new women’s facility opened by Open Door Mission, REACH Advocacy’s Project Haven shelters, and the former Genesis House, which is now owned and operated by the YWCA.
Bello said that will bring the number of available Code Blue beds to 141, up from 100 last year.
To help people in need of shelter or warming centers find them when Code Blue is in effect, the county is providing its outreach workers with new palm cards with the names, phone numbers, and addresses of the shelters and warming centers, as well as which bus routes go to the centers. Outreach teams and the Father Tracy Advocacy Center will distribute bus passes to the facilities.
“It is amazing to see the community really step up,” said Andy Carey, co-founder of Project Haven. “The advocacy groups, the mutual aid networks, all the shelter providers, Homeless Service Network, Partners Ending Homelessness — all starting to have their voices heard and how we're going to care for basically our most marginalized people. So we're really excited that we're part of this.”
The Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority is offering free rides to the warming centers and shelters from its downtown transit center.
Denise Read, deputy commissioner for the county’s Department of Human Services, said increasing the available Code Blue placements required cooperation between the providers and the county. She added that the county is open to bringing in additional shelter providers.