New Jersey Shelters Welcome Homeless in the Cold
The worst of Mother Nature has brought out the best of organizations across the state, providing warm meals and a place to sleep for people who have no place else to go.
"Code Blue" scenarios in New Jersey, triggered by dangerously low temperatures, have prompted shelters, fire halls, senior centers and other facilities to open their doors for the homeless, who would otherwise be facing deadly conditions outdoors.
Anna Herner, homeless in New Brunswick, has spent the past couple of nights at Elijah's Promise, a soup kitchen that re-purposes itself as an overnight shelter when the temperature dips to a certain point.
"If we didn't have this, it would be really, really bad," she said. "A lot of people would probably be freezing to death outside."
Up to 45 people can stay each night at the soup kitchen.
Carl Jackson, another member of the homeless population in New Brunswick, said it's been impossible to stand outdoors for more than a few minutes.
"I don't need to be sleeping out there, and it's twice as cold once the sun goes down," he said.
At the Jersey Shore Rescue Mission in Asbury Park, hours have been extended to allow displaced individuals the opportunity to be inside around the clock.
The shelter typically limits stays to 10 days, in order to encourage residents to look for work and housing, but that rule is lifted during dangerous weather cycles, according to mission coordinator George Moussab.
"Under these circumstances, it's very hard to be looking for work," Moussab. "It's going to be pretty brutal."
Joe Nunez, recently evicted from his home in Belmar, said he's been depending on the Rescue Mission for days.
"You get food, you get a bed to sleep on, and in the morning, you get coffee and a bagel," he said, noting he spends time each day searching for a job at the local library.
At night, the dining room becomes the sleeping area. The beds are made up of "plastic boats" and mats, and a shower is mandatory for anyone staying overnight.
Moussab said he expects the extra hours to last through the week.