Higher Ground Outreach, First State Community Outreach Agency help homeless find hotel rooms ahead of winter storms
GEORGETOWN, De- With Inclement weather on the forecast, many homeless in Delaware are facing the harsh reality of sleeping out in the cold, and uncertainty as to the availability of shelters. Friday morning, it was unclear if short-staffed Code Purple shelters would be able to extend hours, or stick with standard hours with a 7 am Saturday morning cut-off time. Higher Ground Outreach specialist Lou Hernandez tells us, having the homeless leave at that time would be putting them straight into the storm, a risk he didn’t want to take.
“A person could be woken up at 6 am be told to leave their bed and go deal with this cold weather and snow, all the while they are wondering where they can go this just makes no sense to me,” Hernandez said adding “It’s a blizzard outside where are you going to go.”
“This one that I’m attending you go into at 9 pm and you come out at 7 am,” said Alfred Ceney. Ceney tells us he is one of 15 homeless who Higher Ground Outreach Inc, working with First State Community Action, were able to secure hotel rooms for the weekend.
First State Community Actions tells 47ABC a total of 25 people were housed at the Quality Inn in Georgetown.
“This program here stepped in made sure we didn’t go through that difficulty the next 3 days with the snowstorm, it’s hard for us to survive very difficultly and you never know when there could be a death from this cold,” Ceney said, adding “For me its good because its a bed and it means there is someone out there that cares for us, that recognizes us.”
Code Purple Delaware tells 47ABC, by Friday afternoon, the decision had been made to extend service at sites across Delaware, with additional staffing to provide shelter throughout the storm.
Hernandez has been traveling to homeless tent cities, and to the shepherd’s office in Georgetown, documenting IDs for the homeless; a necessity for getting the hotel rooms. He says many people don’t know that options like these are available until they come to Shepherds Office or find out about it from outreach groups like his.
But even when help is offered, many homeless can be wary of taking it. Hernandez tells us camps and tents left behind are often stolen or damaged, and it can be a tough sell for him to convince someone to leave it behind, even in freezing conditions.
“My concern is with this storm these tens can collapse with the weight of the snow and then they are out here with nothing, it can be a dangerous life-threatening condition to be out in a tent in this storm,” he said. Hernandez tells us he wants those living in tent cities to know that everything that could be damaged or stolen can be replaced and that their lives are more valuable than their belongings.
“I’d rather see them alive than staying and protecting a tent that can be replaced we can do that we make that happen and what’s more important here is lives,” he said. Hernandez tells us hotels only represent a temporary solution, but it’s better than leaving people out in the cold.
“They will survive at least through the weekend and we will worry about Monday on Monday,” he said.
This Article has been Updated to Reflect First State Community Action’s role in securing Hotel Rooms and the status of Code Purple Facilities.