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Blizzard warning brings Code Blue to Southern Tier

Chautauqua County Public Works Department

The blast of winter brought on a Code Blue night. That's not unusual, but what isn't often noticed is that the Code Blue can be declared in places beyond the City of Buffalo.

Buffalo has Code Blue sites like Harbor House and Holy Cross. Beyond the city, there is the Rural Outreach Center in East Aurora. Niagara County has warming shelters in both Lockport and Niagara Falls. Those are relatively urban areas.

However, the problems of homelessness run far beyond Metro Buffalo.

Chautauqua County runs a long list of warming places, as well as placements in hotels for the homeless in this Code Blue weather. Jon Anderson, county deputy commissioner of health and human services, said it isn't just people who are forced into warming stations.

"We have people in homeless situations more than just on a Code Blue night, and we can have anywhere from 15-20 cases and that varies and ranges," Anderson said. "It can be lower or it can be higher depending on the time of the year and the situation."

Anderson said the issues that make people homeless in Chautauqua County are no different than any other place.

"It can be any number of those things, right there. We see all of those situations, families, mothers, individuals, poverty, mental health concerns, all of the things that we would see anywhere else," he said.

Anderson said the county has had some success in finding housing for people who had been homeless.

"We work closely with our continum care agency and most people who are homeless do not stay homeless forever," said Anderson. "Yes, we have good success with that, but there are others who are in a homeless situation who we see more than once, unfortunately."

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.