Letter of Thanks: Another Year Stronger

By: Rev. Dr. Robin Weinstein

Photo courtesy of m25initiative.org.

Code Blue concludes its sixth season serving the homeless of Cumberland County. The numbers of overnight stays and meals served are on the decline, spelling real hope.

On April 15, 2019, we concluded our sixth season of Code Blue in Cumberland County. On behalf of the Board of Trustees for the M25 Initiative and the Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition Steering Committee, I want to thank all who helped out this past season.

The Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition was created to provide “Warming Centers” as a way for homeless persons in the community to find shelter from frigid overnight temperatures during the cold winter months. Code Blue is a grassroots movement of churches and community members responding to the needs of our homeless neighbors.

One night of Code Blue requires at least 42 volunteers to cover shifts from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.; and $600 to support case management services, equipment, and facilities. Without the dedication, compassion, and concern of our volunteers, this program would not be possible. Our Code Blue Program was activated for 30 nights this season!

The Code Blue Program gave birth to the Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative that has worked to address chronic homelessness in Cumberland County holistically. To date, the Collaborative has housed over 60 chronically homeless individuals (learn more at endhomelessness2020.com). Because of the community’s support of Code Blue and Housing First, we are seeing a reduction in hospital utilization, EMS usage, jail recidivism, AND individuals requiring Code Blue Warming Centers!

Our Code Blue program provided warm shelter and food to an average census of 38 individuals who are homeless in our three major cities: Bridgeton, Millville, and Vineland. Since our 2015-2016 season, the numbers utilizing or needing the Code Blue Warming Centers has declined by 35 percent.

Code Blue volunteers provided over 1,800 dinners to our area homeless and poor (a decrease of 58 percent from 2017-2018 season), and a total of 1133 overnight warming center stays for homeless individuals (a reduction of 54 percent from 2017-2018 season).

What we are seeing first hand is that “Code Blue + Housing First = Transformative Hope”! Our volunteers, sponsors, and partners are making a real difference in the lives of the men and women we serve, and for our community. Together, we are demonstrating that thoughtful compassion is good public & social policy. We are showing that good triumphs over evil, hope overcomes despair, and that love always wins.

The Code Blue Program would not be possible without the leadership and dedication of our municipal coordinators:

• Bridgeton: Ms. Nina Young, Coordinator/ Mr. Nick Dobrowolski, Deputy Coordinator

• Vineland: Ms. Cathy Gardner, Coordinator/Ms. Christine Marin, Deputy Coordinator

• Millville: Ms. Cindi Cooke, Coordinator/ Mrs. Susan Stowe, Deputy Coordinator

Thank you to our new Vice-Chair of the Code Blue Coalition: Pastor Rick Ortiz.

We also want to thank the churches that open their doors to the homeless; and the many restaurants, organizations, and churches who provided food and supplies. 

Logistical support was provided by Inspira Health Network, Let’s Do Linens, Gateway Community Action Partnership & PRAC of Southern New Jersey. 

For a full list of those who supported the Code Blue efforts, please see http://www.codeblueccnj.org. 

In closing, I am humbled by the work of those in our community who are standing up, showing up, and speaking up on behalf of the poor and homeless. Thank you for showing our guests and our community that “love does.”

—Rev. Dr. Robin Weinstein, Chair, Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition, President & Founder, The M25 Initiative