County “Code Blue” Program Earns Honor From Homeless Coalition

ELIZABETH –Freeholder Chairman Angel G. Estrada and Union County Human Services Director Frank Guzzo have been recognized with a 2008 Annual Founder’s Day Award by the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, in honor of their work in bringing “Code Blue” to Union County.

Code Blue is an emergency program that helps provide immediate shelter to the homeless in extreme cold.

“On behalf of the entire Freeholder Board, I would like to thank the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless for their longstanding efforts to improve the lives of the homeless,” said Estrada. “This honor is truly one to be shared by all who work tirelessly to lend a helping hand to those in need.”

Also among those honored by the Elizabeth Coalition were Reverend Joseph Garlic, founder of Brand New Day, for his work in developing affordable housing; and Herman “Nook” Schreiber, for applying his government, community service and business experience to fund raising and mentoring the Coalition.

Founder’s Day has been held each year since the Elizabeth Coalition’s 25th anniversary celebration in 2005, when the organization honored the spirit of its founding members. The Founder’s Day Award recognizes those whose actions reaffirm the coalition’s passion to make a difference in the lives of people who struggle with homelessness, and to address the root causes of homelessness.

Code Blue has been adopted by other cities and counties nationwide, to ensure that all available resources are called upon to prevent death and injury among homeless people in cold weather. The benchmark for Code Blue includes overnight temperatures below 25 degrees Fahrenheit, or below 32 degrees with precipitation.

“Code Blue gives us the means to coordinate county and local resources, and focus them where they are needed most,” said Guzzo. “Municipalities across Union County have pitched in to make this program work. Its success is thanks to their participation.”

Union County implemented Code Blue in November 2007. When extreme cold weather is predicted, the County Department of Human Services coordinates with the County Police and the Division of Emergency Management, to alert municipalities that Code Blue procedures are activated. This enables local police departments to make immediate contact with county homeless placement services, and to transport homeless persons directly to shelter.

In cases where municipal police are unable to provide transportation, county police are available.

Between November and April, 57 Code Blue alerts were issued by the county. Over 100 people were provided with shelter on these nights.

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