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Code Blue Collaborative gets to work as wintry weather moves in

Ronald Peralta

"The premise of Code Blue is that no one can be turned away and it's been hugely successful."

That was Nadia Pizarro, director of Best Self Homeless Services and co-chair of the Western New York Coalition for the Homeless, announcing the start of another Code Blue season.

"Code Blue is the City of Buffalo's emergency weather safety plan that provides services to homeless populations on evenings where the temperature or wind chill falls below 15 degrees," she said. "In the last few years, Code Blue has expanded further our services to be able to provide shelter and warming centers when the temperature falls reaches below 32 degrees or wind chill, which is basically the entire winter."

On Code Blue nights, an outreach team goes out to "every single location where any homeless individual has stayed in the last five years," Pizarro explained. If someone in need is found, they are brought to a shelter for food and warmth.

Individuals can also call 211 or text CodeBlueBuffalo to 898-211 to report the location of homeless person in need of Code Blue outreach.

Jean Bennett, director of Housing and Homeless Services for the Restoration Society and co-chair of the Western New York Homeless Coalition, said since the beginning of Code Blue in 2009, the effort has grown substantially - from 20 people per night to 100 to 150 people per night last year.

Bennett said the Code Blue process and players may have changed, "but the commitment to a warm, safe place to rest for those most in need has not.”

This year there are two shelters: St. Luke's Mission of Mercy at 325 Walden Ave., which Pizarro said created Code Blue, and the Restoration Society's Harbor House at 241 Genesee St.