Temperatures are expected to plummet this weekend. Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a Code Blue warning this morning, calling conditions “abnormal,” and “dangerous.” He also said the city will try to make sure that all homeless people are taken off the streets.
Henriette Chacar visited Broadway Community, a church that serves as a homeless shelter and soup kitchen, to find out how the shelter is handling increased demand.
Broadway Community in Morningside Heights has been serving meals to people in need for over three decades. This is certainly not their first encounter with extreme cold weather.
Reverend Anthony Damelio serves as executive director. He says for people on the street, the most important thing is to get inside.
Damelio 1: When it’s cold, or consequently when it’s really hot, people need to escape the elements, and so we get a rush of people at 10:15.
That’s when breakfast is served. Up to 160 guests can fit around the tables at mealtimes. Today’s lunch menu, spaghetti and meatballs. For dessert: Brownies with whipped cream. Alyssa Nittolo is a volunteer.
Alyssa 1: We ordered a little bit more with the idea that maybe more guests would be coming in.
Rashid Hakeem, the social services director at Broadway Community, personally understands the difficulties of being homeless.
Rasheed 1: I’m a former client. I was homeless for more than one occasion for quite some time. Homelessness doesn’t take a day off.
But when temperatures dip below zero, those days become even more of a challenge. The stress of staying warm can make for tense scenes at shelters like Broadway Community.
Damielo 2: We see that manifest in just a more difficult situation on the floor.
That means stressed out clients and disagreements that can flare into fights. So the staff and volunteers of Broadway Community have to be prepared for that too.
And there’s another thing. The center can feed up to 300 people a day, but they can only shelter 12 people overnight. So what happens when they reach capacity?
Damelio 3: It rips at my heart just thinking about it, but the reality is we’re a very small non-profit on a small budget, and we just have to set boundaries, as difficult as that is.
Damelio says passers-by can help too: If you see someone who may be in trouble in the cold, call 911.
Henriette Chacar, Columbia Radio News.