A new law requires all counties in New Jersey to have a plan in place to shelter all homeless individuals during conditions of severe weather. The “Code Blue” law was signed by Governor Chris Christie (R) on May 11. Under the new law, counties will issue Code Blue Alerts whenever the temperature drops below 25 degrees Fahrenheit without precipitation or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit with precipitation. Code Blue Alerts will also be issued for any night when the National Weather Service forecasts the wind chill to be below zero degrees Fahrenheit for more than one hour. The coalition of advocacy groups and homeless service providers advancing the bill included in prominent role the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey (the Network), an NLIHC state partner.
Many New Jersey cities and counties have been operating with Code Blue policies for several years. The new statewide law will create a consistent policy for all 21 counties. The increased budget expense for local governments remains unclear. In some counties, Code Blue plans will rely heavily on space provided by local churches and other organizations; these improvised shelter locations will be covered under “Good Samaritan” liability protections per the new law.
Staci Berger, president and CEO of the Network, celebrated the new law, indicating that the previous patchwork of efforts was insufficient. “The level of services available throughout the state has varied widely, which is dangerous and unacceptable,” she said. “Statewide standards have been desperately needed to ensure the safety of our neighbors who need shelter, especially in extreme weather.” Ms. Berger specifically thanked Assemblymen Bruce Land (D) and Bob Andrzejczak (D) and Senator Jeff Van Drew (D) for being the lead sponsors of the legislation.
For more information about the passage of New Jersey’s Code Blue law, contact Arnold Cohen, senior policy coordinator at Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, at [email protected].