Code Blue Bill Passes Assembly Committee 4-1

Referred to Appropriations Committee
Amendments Needed Prior to Final Approval

Code Blue Bill Passes Assembly Committee 4-1

(L to R) Front Row – Joyce Campbell and Laura Rodgers. Back Row – Richard W. Brown, Sharon Barker, Arnold Cohen and Pastor Rob Weinstein (Photo by Ben Haygood).

The NJ Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee approved A-815 on a vote of 4-1. The bill “requires county emergency management coordinators to establish Code Blue Program to shelter homeless during severe weather events.”

Prior to the committee hearing, the sponsors of the legislation, Assemblymen Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce R. Land, met with a coalition of homeless advocates including:

Both the bill’s sponsors and the advocates agreed that amendments are required to make the bill workable. A draft of the possible amendments would also include a Code Red program for excessive heat conditions during the summer months.

Testifying in favor of A815 were:

  1. Sharon Barker, HCDNNJ,
  2. Pastor Rob Weinstein, M25 Initiative and Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition and
  3. Richard W. Brown, Monarch Housing Associates

Ms. Barker reviewed research that documents that only half of the counties have a program and there is no consistency in how or when it is called.

We have all heard the horrible news of New Jersey homeless who have died because of the cold weather. There is no reason for anyone to be left out in the cold. It is inhumane for us to turn our backs on those that don’t have shelter or heat.

When we made calls to the 21 counties, we were astounded to learn that some County officials or representatives, who were publicly referenced as code blue resources, had no idea what Code Blue even was. We were put into voicemail, transferred between departments, put on hold for incredibly long periods of time, asked repeatedly to explain what we were asking for, and in the majority of cases we were just referred to another number or agency including NJ211, which is only as good as the information they receive.

Ms. Barker stated.

The Code Blue program is not a novel concept, but sadly it is not a widely known program. The unfamiliarity of Code Blue, along with the ambiguity of definitions, roles/responsibilities, and legal liabilities, contribute to a fragmented implementation of Code Blue throughout New Jersey.

In Cumberland County, Code Blue is now in its third season. The program was created to provide “Warming Centers” as a way for homeless persons in the community to find shelter from frigid overnight temperatures during the cold winter months. Local churches on a rotating basis host warming Centers to provide temporary relief for our homeless neighbors.

Code Blue is a grassroots movement of churches and community members responding to the needs of our homeless neighbors. Code Blue is funded by community contributions made to the M25 Initiative (501c3).

Pastor Rob Weinstein stated:

Testimony against the legislation based on the vagueness of the definition was presented by the NJ Association of Counties.

All parties are prepared to work together to develop a bill that can be approved and implemented.

The Committee vote was as follows:

Assemblywomen Quijano and Chaparro spoke in favor of the bill. In addition, Assemblywoman Chaparro indicated an interest in becoming a sponsor.

Assemblyman McGuckin voted no but expressed that he would consider voting for the bill if it can be amended.

The bill now heads to the Appropriations Committee.

A815 Code Blue Bill

A815 Code Blue Bill Committee Statement

Listen to the Committee Hearing

M25 Testimony

HCDNNJ Testimony

Potential Amendments