New Jersey’s Code Blue Warming Centers Help Unsheltered Homeless

Monarch Housing’s Kasey Congero’s Explains Code Blue’s Important Role in Ending Homelessness in NJ

On December 3, 2019, New Jersey News Network (NJNN) reported “’Code Blue’ Aids Homeless During Freezing Winter Nights.”

Monarch Housing’s Kasey Congero spoke with NJNN’s Heather Fordham about how New Jersey’s Code Blue assists indivdiuals experiencing homelessness across the state.

Counties issue a “Code Blue” is when temperatures drop below freezing or weather conditions pose a threat to the homeless. The warming centers across the state are open during the overnight hours and provide cots, food and hot coffee, bathrooms and warm clothing.

Congero explained how Monarch has worked with the Ocean County Code Blue site since the 2018-19 winter season. Monarch helps facilitate communication with those experiencing homelessness about what Code Blue nights the sites are open.

“We make sure centers have service providers that come out and interview the homeless that are staying here to help get permanent housing,” said Congero. This is critical because Code Blue centers are really the first step in ensuring that those experiencing homelessness and living unsheltered are assisted with finding housing.

Explaining why the communication about nights when a Code Blue is called is so important, Congero said “So that everyone knows there is a warm, safe, space to stay that night.”

“We saw a lot more people initially because they knew what Code Blue was and they knew where to stay,” said Congero about the turnout of individuals seeking assistance so far this year.

New Jersey’s Code Blue law went into effect in 2017 and since that time, 9,000 people experiencing homelessness have used Code Blue warming centers to get in out of the cold.

And NJCounts 2019, the statewide point-in-time count of the homeless, found 1,413 households, with 1,482 persons were unsheltered on the night of the count. The total number of households experiencing homelessness on the night of January 22, 2019, was 6,748 households including 8,864 persons. The percentage of individuals living unsheltered counted was 16.7%.

New Jersey’s Code Blue legislation requires any municipality with over ten homeless individuals to provide emergency warming centers to all individuals experiencing homelessness during frigid weather and severe winter weather events.

Over the past two years, communities in New Jersey have worked to refine their Code Blue response system and provide warming center services to individuals experiencing homelessness who are unsheltered.

Some Code Blue Centers in New Jersey are staffed by people who were once homeless themselves.

Click here for a listing of Code Blue warming centers in New Jersey. To donate items, contact Kasey Congero of Monarch Housing at kcongero@monarchhousing.org.