Today’s Read: NYC’s Homeless Look for Shelter and Safety

The frigid winter weather pummeling the East Coast can be life-threatening for the thousands of New Yorkers who sleep on the streets each night. While New York City has a legal right to shelter and expands citywide outreach when a Code Blue is in effect, many of the most vulnerable homeless individuals might still remain on the freezing streets. Learn more about how to help homeless New Yorkers during cold weather here.

In extreme weather, the Coalition for the Homeless’ programs are needed more than ever. Every single night this week, Coalition volunteers and staff have ventured out in the brutal cold to deliver hot meals and essential items like blankets, coats, and socks on our Grand Central Food Program vans. Even amidst Thursday’s blizzard, our teams braved harsh winds and ice-covered streets to bring critical help to the hundreds of homeless men and women who depend on us for what may be their only meal of the day.

Lisa L. Colangelo rode along with GCFP on Wednesday night and wrote about the program’s grateful clients and dedicated volunteers for amNewYork:

“For the most part, people who live on the street are very aware of what it takes to survive and they will seek out a warmer place,” said Giselle Routhier, policy director at the nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless, which provides services including mobile outreach and food to homeless New Yorkers. “However, you can get injured very quickly in weather like this, which is why it is critical for outreach to make frequent checks on people and assist in any way possible to bring folks inside.”

Volunteers with Coalition for the Homeless caught up with Success under the FDR Drive at 35th Street Wednesday. Success, a nickname she asked to use instead of her real name, said she found most shelters dirty places where she felt uncomfortable and unsafe.

Mike Vander Putten, 46, a city school teacher and volunteer driver with Coalition for the Homeless, gave Success extra soup and convinced her to go to nearby Bellevue Hospital where she could at least shower and stay warm for the night.

“I just really love them,” she said of the volunteers.

Vander Putten, Patricia Bergstrom and Vince Fiore spend their Wednesday nights traveling a southern path through Manhattan to distribute food and clothes. Lines form wherever the van stops with people who are homeless or in need of a meal.

With a storm on the way, the team handed out bags with soup, fruit, bread and milk. There were many familiar faces who lit up at the sight of the team.

At a stop by the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, Bergstrom, 52, a city school teacher, noticed a man on line was wearing just layers of sweatshirts. She had him try on several coats until he found one that fit.

“If this doesn’t work, I’ll try to find another one and bring it next time,” she promised.