Homeless In The Blizzard: Weather Presents Dangers For Thousands On The Streets

A blizzard warning is in effect for Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and New York City. With record snowfall, freezing cold temperatures, and high wind gusts expected, residents of the Northeast are urged to stay indoors and drive only if necessary. While many skeptics may be using this event to attempt to discredit the theory of global climate change, a more pressing issues faces the homeless -- where to go and how to stick out the storm.

"The vast majority of homeless people in New York City are in the shelter system," Patrick Markee, Senior Policy Analyst at Coalition for the Homeless, said. "Along with food, we give out hats and gloves and coats if we've got them. On a night like this, we urge people to get indoors and give them options to do that."

The NYC Department of Homeless Services announced back in December that its 'Code Blue' emergency procedure would be in effect throughout the winter to provide temporary shelter. Many cities, notably New York, have seen a drastic increase in homelessness since the beginning of the economic recession. NBC New York reported in October that 39,000 people sleep in NY municipal shelters every night, about 40% of them being children.

"We are definitely concerned that there's a shortage of shelter beds for homeless single adults," Markee said. "We actually brought a legal challenge against the city [of New York] back in December because there was a lack of shelter beds. We are concerned that city officials have absolutely failed to prepare."

According to Markee, there are about 8,300 beds in the adult shelter system. The nonprofit groups hired by the city are doing the best they can in their street outreach efforts, he said, but there simply may not be anywhere to place the people they find.

"At the end of the day, they have to have a place to bring those people and the city's shelter system is bursting at the seams."