The Code Blue shelter, which includes a hot meal as well as a cot and blankets, will be activated at the Health Commissioner’s discretion only if temperatures are expected to be below 25 degrees Fahrenheit with sustained winds of 15 mph or higher; or when other conditions deemed by the Health Commissioner are severe enough to present a substantial threat to the life or health of people experiencing homelessness. Due to the generally mild winters experienced by mid-Atlantic states, the Health Department expects Code Blue to be activated approximately 15 nights each year, but is prepared to operate the shelter as needed if weather conditions are severe.
During winter 2002-2003, Code Blue was activated 34 nights and gave shelter to over 100 clients on average each night. During that year, Baltimore City sustained the fewest homeless, weather-related deaths in the last decade--only one. In its second year (2003-2004), Code Blue was activated 22 nights and served 3,780 individuals. Code Blue is unique in that it has an on-site Health Department nursing team that provides treatment for cold-related injuries, like steam grate burns, frost bite, or dressing changes. Mental health counselors from Baltimore Mental Health Systems and addictions counselors from Health Care for the Homeless are also present to provide emergency assessment and counseling. An employment counselor from the Office of Employment Development helps assess job readiness and provide referrals.
Free transportation for all individuals seeking shelter on Code Blue nights will be provided. A wheelchair-accessible bus will pick up individuals from 5:00 – 8:00 pm from I Can, Oasis Station, H.O.P.E Drop In, Health Care for the Homeless, My Sister’s Place and BCDSS – HESU.
For more information on Code Blue, visit their web page or call 410-396-4677.
This story was published on November 30, 2004.