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Allentown issues Code Blue and opens YMCA as a shelter

By Meghan Packer, Reporter, MPacker@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 22 2014 09:02:53 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 23 2014 04:42:10 AM CST

For the homeless in Allentown, tonight is not a night you want to take any chances by staying outside.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Wednesday night was bitterly cold and could be dangerous for people outside.

"I don't want to worry about freezing to death," said Ken Boyle, who is homeless and stayed at Safe Haven at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Allentown.

Christopher Delange, who is also homeless and stayed there, said "Just coming out here to smoke a cigarette is unbearable, it's freezing."

They were thankful to have a roof over their heads, even if it means sleeping on the floor. Safe Haven is one of the locations in Allentown that offers shelter to homeless people.

"We can tightly but comfortably take care of 35 people to 40," said Rev. Richard Baumann.

Homeless advocates, including Pastor Baumann, have been speaking out and pushing for more options for where people can go when it's cold.

It was announced Wednesday that through a partnership with the City of Allentown, Lehigh County, and the Allentown YMCA-YWCA, the Allentown YMCA-YWCA will open as a temporary shelter on certain Code Blue nights.

Lehigh County Emergency Management will declare Code Blue nights when the temperature is expected to drop below 32 degrees.

According to WFMZ Chief Meteorologist Ed Hanna, historically that's happened most nights in December through February and 119 nights out of the year on average.

The YMCA-YWCA will allow people into a gym and offer bleachers and floor space Monday through Thursday from about 10:30 p.m. to 5 a.m.

"I think that's a good thing that that's happening. The Y is an appropriate place for that to happen," said Pastor Baumann. Safe Haven allows people inside from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m.

"It's a warm place to stay at night, but 10:30 at night, it's already going to be down to sub zero temperatures and at five in the morning it's still going to be freezing cold," said Delange.

Boyle said, "The idea's good but I think they really should adjust the hours."

According to a city spokesperson, Code Blue also means no shelter can turn anyone away.

The Allentown YMCA-YWCA is located at 425 S. 15th S.