A South Jersey community is taking the steps to solve its homeless problem after a man was killed while trying to find shelter from the bitter cold.
Joseph Hanshaw, 50, died after he was trapped in a clothing collection bin outside the Salvation Army Church in Bridgeton, New Jersey on Monday.
Police found him dangling from the clothing box. He was later pronounced dead at a medical center.
“He was a gentleman who came in quite often,” said Salvation Army Captain James Stephenson. “As a matter of fact he was in earlier that day.”
Hanshaw’s death prompted Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly to take action and spearhead efforts to help the city’s homeless population.
“We have been neglectful,” Mayor Kelly said. “Not the city, but this community. We have not stepped up to the plate.”
Bridgeton currently does not have code blue procedures in place or shelters for the homeless, although there were discussions on opening shelters prior to Hanshaw's death. On Tuesday, Kelly opened an immediate but temporary warming center inside St. Andrew’s Church.
“Luckily right now we’ve got blankets from the Salvation Army,” Kelly said. “We’ve got cots from Cumberland County Emergency Management.
A meeting in which a more permanent solution will be discussed is set to take place on Thursday. Officials with the city’s ministry as well as fire, police, business and economic officers will all be in attendance. Both Kelly and Stephenson hope the meeting will prompt the creation of a code blue warming center program.
“I do not want his death to be in vain,” Kelly said.
“To be able to come in and just sit down in a warm space, have a place to rest and have a cup of coffee,” Stephenson said. “It’s been something I’ve been pushing beyond the last two years.”