Philadelphia's homeless outreach organizations pushed their efforts into overdrive to assist hundreds of homeless persons seeking shelter and warmth as record cold temperatures and negative wind chills moved into the region overnight and remained throughout the day.
Perhaps the city's most used resource for homeless shelter referrals during extreme weather is the Project HOME Homeless Outreach Hotline.
Last night, as temperatures plunged to single digits, Project HOME Director of Advocacy and Public Policy Jennine Miller said the hotline--which people are encouraged to use if they see anyone out on the street that may need shelter--received three times as many calls as it sees on an average day of operation.
"Our call volume has been triple our average day. Last night was 51 calls. Our average day is 10 to 15 calls," Miller said.
According to Miller, a high volume of calls continued this morning, and the hotline had received as many as 26 phone calls before noon today.
To keep up with the volume, Miller says the outreach center has upped its number of dispatch teams from its usual 7 or 8 teams to 12 teams.
While a Code Blue emergency warning remains in effect in the city, Project HOME will provide 24-hour outreach, special access to emergency shelter placements, and a court order will be in place for police to transport any homeless persons who refuse to accept shelter.
The Project HOME Homeless Outreach Hotline can be reached 24/7 at 215-232-1984.
Workers at the Bethesda Project's Winter Café also put in some extra hours to keep homeless persons out of the cold. The Winter Café, which normally serves as an overnight drop-in center for chronically street homeless persons, will remain open all day today and through tomorrow morning due to the Code Blue warning.
Executive Director of the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service Center Tim Meserve said its staff will also be putting in extra hours to help keep homeless veterans out of the cold.
"We do van runs between the VA, the shelters, and here. We're doing extra runs today to try to get these veterans out of the cold," Meserve said.
"The ones that don't want to come, we're trying to entice them to do that. And if they refuse, we have blankets, gloves and hats that we're giving to the ones that are just adamant and won't come in."
The Veterans Multi-Service Center in South Philadelphia provides hot breakfast and lunch meals for the homeless, six days-a-week. The center also has homeless outreach teams in Chester, Montgomery and Delaware counties, and transitional facilities in Coatesville, Pa.
Yesterday, the Philadelphia center served anywhere from 60 to 100 homeless persons, and had a steady flow of intake throughout the day today.
Here is a list of other organizations that help serve and house the needy during the extreme cold:
New Castle County
Friendship House has enacted Code Purple for Jan. 6, Tuesday, Jan. 7, and Wednesday, Jan. 8. Volunteers provide soup and sandwiches. Friendship House provides hot beverages, paper and cleaning products. The shelter will be open each day from 2:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew, 720 N. Orange St.
For more information about Code Purple nights, call Bill Perkins at (302) 559-5716.
Salvation Army activates Code Purple when necessary. After 8:30 p.m., those at the sanctuary will go to the Salvation Army shelter, 400 N. Orange St. Men will be provided a cot set-up in the gymnasium and women will be provided accommodation in the women’s shelter. An evening snack and continental breakfast will be served before visitors leave the facility.
Those in the Newark area who are in need of sanctuary from the cold weather are encouraged to call (302) 544-0165, and sign up for services with the Newark Empowerment Center. The center’s office hours are 1 p.m.-4 p.m. The host overnight sanctuary locations for the Newark Empowerment Center are:
(Jan. 6): First Presbyterian Church, 292 W. Main St., Newark. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Tuesday (Jan. 7): St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 701 S. College Ave., Newark. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Wednesday (Jan. 8): Newark United Methodist Church, 69 E. Main St., Newark. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Jan. 6 through Sunday, Jan. 12: People in need of overnight sanctuary are encouraged to go to Epworth United Methodist Church, 19285 Holland Glade Road, Rehoboth Beach. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. For more information, call Nan Ruhl, director of Immanuel Shelter, at (302) 604-2619.
According to Immanuel Shelter, the overnight sanctuary at Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth Beach would take in people who are homeless in Kent County or elsewhere who can get to the shelter.