The New Jersey Human Services Department has announced it will provide counties with $2.5 million to support local efforts to protect homeless people during the cold months this winter.

State Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson said New Jersey a "Code Blue" law that allows municipalities to support these efforts when the weather is frigid.

A Code Blue alert directs local authorities to make shelters or warming centers available to those who are homeless. That rule has been on the book for several years but up until now, counties and municipalities have had to figure out how to pay for warming centers on their own.

Johnson said the Murphy administration is dedicated to supporting counties with resources to ensure they can secure spaces, prepare volunteers and provide food.

Under Code Blue, municipalities can open warming centers in facilities such as libraries, community centers or municipal buildings.

County allocations are based on New Jersey's Point-in-Time Count of individuals experiencing homelessness, which is updated every year. Essex County will receive the most money, $545,000. Cape May, Gloucester, Salem, Sussex and Warren receive the least at $25,000 each.

"We in the Murphy administration are committed to helping make sure that we are working towards affordable housing options for individuals across our state. But while there are individuals experiencing homelessness in our state, we want to make sure they are safe and warm as we enter the winter months," Johnson said.

211 is the statewide resource that keeps track of Code Blue declarations by county. In 2019, there were 784 Code Blue alerts. For October and November 2020, there have been 58 Code Blue alerts so far.

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