BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)– With the deep freeze that settled over Western New York these past several days, it’s even more important to get homeless people out of the cold.

But the pandemic adds challenges to that.

When the virus made its way to Buffalo the last March, coordinators in the homeless community worked quickly to make the shelters COVID-19 safe.

Last season, the Code Blue homeless groups used Erie Community College’s Flickinger Center as a huge space to spread out cots.

This season, those clients are being served at the lincoln field house on Buffalo’s east side and the Holy Cross on the city’s west side. They serve individual pre-packaged meals so no one stands in food lines.

And if someone is symptomatic or COVID-19 positive, that person is not allowed in nor turned away.

Instead, they’re either sent to the hospital, 2-1-1 sets them up with individual housing, or they’re brought to the county’s quarantine hotel

Restoration society’s Jean Bennett says she’s proud that there have been no COVID-19 outbreaks, and communities statewide and across the country are modeling their homeless response off Buffalo’s success.

Code Blue provided shelter for about 110 people 24/7 through the worst of the pandemic.
Right now during the cold, they serve about 90 people.

Lots of people looked to us. People didn’t know you know, what you do? You have a population here, the homeless population is already marginalized. They’re obviously at higher risk, their hygiene is poor. Some of them don’t follow rules to the best, and really in need of assistance.

Jean Bennett, Director of Housing and Homeless Services, Restoration Society

Ongoing challenges include having the resources to keep things clean and provide PPE and clean clothes.