By: Rachel Suga, Writer / Follow South Jersey Bridgeton City Intern
BRIDGETON, N.J. — As the weather gets colder as winter progresses, Cumberland County is fighting the chill while helping its homeless population.
Gateway Community Action Partnership has opened the doors to River’s Edge Warming Center with the goal of supporting those in need. The center is located on 7 Washington St. in Bridgeton. New Jersey and the surrounding states are prone to colder weather, which created the need for the Code Blue warming center.
“Code Blue” is an emergency guideline that helps protect the homeless when temperatures reach below-freezing in Cumberland County, and it keeps them safe by providing shelter and warmth. The center is handicap accessible and has implemented all required amenities that are needed to care for area residents safely. Overnight guests and volunteers are provided with security from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“The homeless situation is always troubling and difficult. Adding in the COVID-19 concerns, the program is more difficult to operate, but at the same time, more essential to remain in operation,” Bridgeton mayor Albert B. Kelly said in a press release.
To accommodate COVID-19 safety protocols, the River’s Edge Warming Center can have up to 20 homeless individuals on nights when the Cumberland County Office of Emergency Management orders a Code Blue. Sleeping arrangements are socially distanced and food is pre-packaged as part of the efforts to protect the area residents from the coronavirus.
The Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the City of Bridgeton, and the M25 Initiative also provided support by helping fund these Code Blue efforts.
There are other warming centers in the area, including at St. Andrews Community Hall on Commerce Street. The Parish of the Holy Cross, Bridge The Gap, and Hands of Compassion Ministry also offer temporary housing during Code Blue periods.