As another week of frigid temperatures continues for Philadelphia, the city maintains its Code Blue status, not for the safety of its home-owning citizens, but for its homeless ones. Area shelters, usually only open for the night time hours, have opened their doors almost round the clock for the health and safety of dozens of those less fortunate.
“Either that or I’ll be at Bethesda,” says Samora Keene, as the 42-year old huddles under a blanket on the corner of 49th and Walnut. “Shelters only take us after dark. At least now we have somewhere warm in the daytime.”
Keene is talking about Bethesda Project, a homeless shelter located on South Street in Center City. While she would prefer to use the People’s Emergency Center on Spring Garden, which is closer, Keene says that she prefers Center City because the local residents are more generous when she begs on the street corners.
Going into effect on Jan. 6, Code Blue, unlike its medical term counterpart, is declared in the city when temperatures drop below 20 degrees- that includes wind chill as a contributing factor. With this in effect, the city has the power to enforce court-ordered transportation to a shelter, designed to get endangered homeless people off the streets, out of the cold and safely into a warm shelter. Coupled with this, any government facility may be used, from public buildings to police stations. After 50-year-old Denise O’Hara slipped in her driveway in North Haven, Conn., and died due to the cold this week, city and state officials are taking the recent blast of cold from Canada very seriously.