Shelters feel the strain as 48th Code Blue issued

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – For the 48th time since November, the Buffalo City Mission and St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy have opened their doors to anyone facing bitter cold temperatures in the Queen City.

The two outreach programs are seeing the needy and homeless come in to their shelters in record numbers during Code Blue warnings. But because of high demand and an increased number of Code Blue warnings being issued, the shelters are feeling the strain on their resources.

“This has to be the worst winter in a generation,” said Drew Bernstein, Code Blue Coordinator at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy. “I can’t imagine that we’ve ever had a winter, certainly in my memory, where we’ve had this many nights where it’s been this cold and it’s gotten this bad.”

It’s the most frigid winter in recent memory, and with each cold snap, the Buffalo City Mission and St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy are seeing those in need flock to their warming centers in record numbers.

Bernstein said, “We are at or beyond capacity every day. Originally we said we could only take 40 people. We’re lucky if we get less than 50.”

The shelters declare a Code Blue warning whenever temperatures dip below 15 degrees. Thursday marked the 48th Code Blue since November – more than double the number last year. And the extra Code Blue warnings are putting a strain on the shelters.

“There are times when we run out of cots. There are times when we run short of food. There are times when our resources are stretched to the max, especially in terms of personnel,” Bernstein said.

On Thursday, men were coming into St. Luke’s even before the shelter officially opened at 8 p.m.

Bernstein said, “Every part of the city is touched by homelessness. Every part of the city is touched by needy people who don’t have heat in their homes, people who are living in abandoned buildings. They all come for help and they all come for Code Blue.”

Without the help of people who have donated food, clothing, and money, Bernstein says he does not know what would happen to the people who come to the shelter.

“This community’s been wonderful. The hearts are as warm as the weather’s been cold,” he said.

St. Luke’s, like the Buffalo City Mission, is always in need of donations and volunteers. If you can help, call 894-4476. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s