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Code Blue takes effect as temperatures dip below 15 degrees

WBFO's Mike Desmond

Most Western New Yorkers were warm in their homes as winter weather blew through the region. Nadia Pizarro was in a Matt Urban Hope Center white van looking for the homeless, as a Code Blue prompted efforts to persuade the homeless to come inside, stay warm and get a hot meal.

"Coffee, warm plate, blanket and, hey, you've got a warm roof over your head."

The Western New York Coalition for the Homeless says there are now so few homeless individuals locally they can be counted on the fingers of both hands. However, they are out there and there are a few new faces.

"We don't find a lot of people. Usually, we'll find about five people a night or we'll go to places where you know five people are and they may not be there at the time," said Matt Urban Hope Center Director Joyelle Tedeschi. "We leave them food. Just let them know that we are here, try to get them to come in, especially on a night like this."

With a Code Blue called overnight, the special shelters opened last evening - Hope Center, Harbor House and St. Luke's Mission of Merc , readying to make sure no one was out there in a vacant home, under a bridge or in the bus station trying to sleep.

Tedeschi says no one should have been out last night.
"There's some homeless who do have a substance abuse issue. There's homeless who have mental health disabilities. And there's homeless who are veterans," she says. "It doesn't make them any less worthy of needing this service."

Tedeschi says veterans, especially, should not be sleeping outside.

"No one with any type of disability, whether addiction or mental health or physical needs to be outside. No one, period, needs to be outside," she says. "So we don't need to justify it with a certain category. No human being should be outside tonight."

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond

The Homeless Coalition has been pushing hard to get the homeless off the street and into housing, with a lot of success.

At the Hope Center, Ronnie Williams was there to talk to homeless people, to persuade them they can get off the street and turn their lives around, as he did. He, himself, walked out of his family home after a fight and spent a year on the street before starting to turn things around at the City Mission.

"I was with my family and me and my brother and we had a misunderstanding and I just felt that I didn't like to be treated the way I was and I got up and I walked one day," he said. "Some kind of way, a light came on me and I went to the Buffalo City Mission in 2007 and from that time, I have had my own home. I got to working."

He says some friends did not make it and have disappeared.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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