Shelters work to protect the homeless in freezing weather
There's a battle in the streets of New Jersey's cities today to protect the homeless from the dangerously cold temperatures the state is facing this week. Hypothermia is the enemy for those who have no place to go.
Those who operate shelters know the dangers of the cold and the hazards the freezing temperatures presents for the homeless.
"They (the homeless) stand to risk injury in a short period of time," said John DeMario, associate director of development with the Atlantic City Rescue Mission. "It might take a couple of hours for them to lose consciousness and then in a couple more hours you are done."
Police and city officials are a crucial element in convincing the homeless to come in out of the cold. Barrett Young of the Rescue Mission of Trenton said they also send staff members to visit places where the homeless tend to spend time and if they're there, "we try to do our best to try to get them to come in."
Young said the mission operates an emergency shelter 365 days a year. The shelter opens its doors at 4 p.m. and close at 8 a.m. But because of the recent cold temperatures, the shelter also operates a day drop in center for the homeless where they can get off the street and out of the elements during the day, as well as during the hours that the mission is not operating its overnight facility.
"When the weather is extreme heat or extreme cold, we do not turn anyone away," Young said.
According to DeMario, alcohol or drug addiction problems complicate the risk because a homeless person who passes out from substance abuse can freeze to death in a very short period of time.
"Unfortunately, one of the main causes of homelessness is substance abuse, alcoholism or drug abuse. So if someone is under the influence and just kind of passes out under the boardwalk, there's no way of knowing exactly where they are," DeMario said.