As the days grow shorter and the weather grows colder, Kelly points out that “If you’re one of the dozens of homeless people in our area, you’re not thinking about the leaves, the holidays or the beauty of autumn. If you’ve heard of climate change, you’re hoping that this is an El Nino winter, as predicted, that might be milder than average. Absent that, you’re just wondering how you’re going to survive from day to day and maybe make it through another winter.”
Kelly points out the critical importance of Code Blue initiative, a program in Cumberland County, and other counties across the state, that shelters individuals on extremely cold nights. The frequency of nights when a “Code Blue” is called depends on the severity of the winter.
The history of Code Blue in Cumberland County began with the tragic death of a man named Joseph Hanshaw who was experiencing homelessness and died after getting stuck in a Salvation Army donation box on an extremely cold night.
Writes Kelly, “Out of that tragedy, Bridgeton city government, the faith-based community, and citizen-volunteers mobilized and started Code Blue utilizing a handful of churches willing to open to their doors as warming centers on colder nights. The program has grown much since that time, and donations help make this success possible.”
M25 Initiative is a nonprofit organization that grew out of the Code Blue initiative. M25 works to end homelessness through the “Housing First” approach and best practice. “Housing First” helps end homelessness by moving people experiencing chronic homelessness into their own apartment. Once people achieve the stability that housing provides, they can work on sobriety, finding a job and other goals.