NJ’s Code Blue Centers as First Step in Ending Homelessness for those Living Unsheltered

Having a Warm Place to Stay on Cold Winter Nights Can Open the Door to Services and Housing

The State of New Jersey requires by law that communities with an unsheltered homeless population of 10 or more people must have Code Blue warming centers. Code Blue warming centers open during the winter months.

Code Blue legislation requires nighttime warming centers to open when temperatures drop to 25 degrees Fahrenheit or 32 degrees Fahrenheit with precipitation. These warming centers then open and provide a safe and warm place for the unsheltered to spend the night.

For more information on getting involved with volunteering at or donating to a Code Blue warming center please click here.

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.

Code Blue legislation does not require the provision of cots for people to use or even meals, but most warming centers in the state have strong in-kind and volunteer support from their communities. Through the generosity of donors, many warming centers are able to provide homecooked meals or meals donated from local restaurants. Warming centers receive generous donations of blankets, pillows, hygiene products, and clothes as well.

In planning to activate and open Code Blue warming centers; agencies, providers, and volunteers are often very capable and thorough in making sure that the immediate and basic needs of individuals experiencing homelessness are met. Individuals experiencing homelessness have warm shelter for the night, are fed, and are given clothing.

Assisting an individual experiencing homelessness at a Code Blue warming center can be a critical first step in helping them end their homelessness. This can mean helping those experiencing homelessness move permanently out of homelessness by initially connecting them to available supportive services in the community. It is imperative to ensure that outreach teams, community social service providers, healthcare agencies others who serve the homeless go to warming centers on Code Blue nights.

We know that those experiencing homelessness often have difficulty with transportation, face stigma in the communities, and may fear walking into public or private social service offices and asking for help. Code Blue nights offer a unique opportunity for community service providers to have the ability to have many of the most vulnerable indivdiuals in the community together in one place under one roof for the night.

Service providers can bring services to those clients with the goal of helping people find permanent, stable housing. This critical first step can engage homeless persons with the mental health, physical health, or substance abuse treatment that they need to stabilize their lives.