By Jim Melwert and Walt Hunter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With single-digit temperatures likely overnight, groups that work with the homeless are mobilizing.
Philadelphia city officials joined forces with volunteers working to protect the most vulnerable population — the city’s homeless — from the frigid, potentially deadly cold snap.
One concern is that some homeless people who had gone into shelters due to cold may have felt Monday morning’s warm temperatures and left those shelters to go back out on the streets.
“We open up additional resources such as cafes, which will be open throughout the day tomorrow to address some of the challenges so we don’t let people stay out in the dangerous cold temperature weather here,” David Holloman of the Philadelphia Department of Health said.
Below ground, at the Hub of Hope shelter in the 15th Street subway, concourse workers from Project HOME and the city Department of Health provided warm clothing and tried to steer homeless people, many guided there by police, to overnight lodging. Other teams from Project HOME combed city streets trying to convince those living there to come inside.
Laura Weinbaum, with the advocacy group Project HOME, is asking everyone to remember the 24-hour homeless outreach hotline “any time that they see somebody who is outdoors and looks like they need some help, like they might be sleeping or staying outside, and also anytime you see somebody going into or coming out of an abandoned building or a building that is known to not have systems.”
That phone number is 215-232-1984. Give a location and description — they have outreach teams on standby.
The Philadelphia Corporation for Aging is also reaching out, reminding everyone that the elderly are especially susceptible to cold, may not dress warmly enough, or have the heat in their homes set too low. They also note that certain medications can increase the risk for hypothermia.
At the Chosen 300 Ministries in the 1100 block of Spring Garden Street donated warm clothing was distributed to those who gathered for 6 p.m. dinner and prayer. Volunteers instructed by Pastor Brian Jenkins to do their best to keep scores of those who attended from returning to the streets.
“It is,” the Pastor told CBS 3’s Walt Hunter, “a matter of life and death.”
Jenkins says their hosts check with everyone who comes to their evening meal.
“Our volunteers and our staff go around to every single person that’s in our building, to make sure, ‘Do you have a place to stay tonight? Where are you going?’ And if they say they don’t have any place to go, we really engage that person.”
Again, if you see someone on the streets who needs help, the hotline number is 215-232-1984.