Code Blue shelters warming up for winter storm conditions

Jan 28, 2019

For Buffalo's homeless, the weather forecast predicts this will be a very tough week. WBFO's Mike Desmond visited the two principal Code Blue shelters: St. Luke's Mission of Mercy and Harbor House Resource Center.

"Why me?" asked Carl.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

He is an asbestos removal worker, spending time Sunday night at St. Luke's on Walden Avenue, with coffee, a meal, a cot and clean sheets - homeless for four months. If not in the Code Blue shelter, he would probably be couch-surfing with a friend. He has not told his family he is unemployed.

Every one of the 50 men in the room has his own story, of short-term or long-term unemployment, of working but not making enough for a home.

"I live in an abandoned building," said George.

Not Sunday night. Sunday night, George was at St. Luke's, trying to stay warm on a Code Blue night. He is a retired printing company worker with Social Security who has been homeless for six months. He is the former tenant of a landlord who failed to pay the property taxes on George's home.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"Through all this, I've caught pneumonia," said George. "I've had it twice. Hospital bills are silly. I've had coronary heart failure on top of it. My lungs have been filled with liquid. I'm on 18 different prescriptions right now."

Drew Bernstein is a missionary for St. Luke's, a complex of buildings with an array of programs. Bernstein said many of the men are not healthy.
 

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"It's true that almost every single day, we have to do a 911 call for someone who is in some form of distress, whether we've had a frostbite case, we've had people who have bronchitis, we've had people who have just aggravated conditions they already have," Bernstein said. "It's very tough for the homeless to get health care anyway."

Berstein said St. Luke's gets some people who are employed, but they do not enough support for stable housing and take care of their other bills.

"Some people are crippled with child support issues. Some people have serious debt previous, that just keep taking away what little they can put together," he said.

Harbor House on Genesee Street was very crowded and expects to be all week. It will be operating during the day as a warming shelter against the bone-chilling weather forecast. Staffer Teontay Holmes said his facility recognizes the weather forecast, day and night.

"It's not a problem because they need a warm, safe place to stay for the day," Holmes said. "We don't want them to freeze to death or anything. It's not our goal. Our goal is to get them off the street so they can have a safe, warm place to stay."