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How to find shelter in New York during cold weather: a guide for migrants and homeless people


Alina Prikhodko

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The cold weather that has hit New York City is posing a major challenge for people experiencing homelessness. When temperatures drop below freezing, a Code Blue emergency alert is issued. It allows homeless people to access shelters without going through the normal intake process. DocumentedNY has prepared a guide for New York immigrants and information on how to find shelter during a Code Blue alert.

What is Code Blue and how do you contact shelters in such conditions?

According to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), a Code Blue notice is issued when temperatures drop to or below 0 degrees Celsius between 16:00 pm and 8:00 am, including National Weather Service calculations for wind chill values. No person seeking shelter without shelter will be turned away during a Cold Blue alert.

There will be three options available to people without housing:

Shelters: Shelters are open to anyone reasonably believed to be homeless and referred by outreach teams. You can also enter them yourself.

Temporary stay centers: During Code Blue, homeless centers are open 24 hours a day.

Working with street homeless people: Homeless outreach teams will contact vulnerable people on Code Blue priority lists to ensure their safety and transport to shelter.
If you are homeless and need help, call 311 or 212-639-9675.

On the subject: New York imposes curfew on migrants in shelters to prevent them from begging at night

What changes will happen after Code Blue comes into effect?

According to the Coalition for the Homeless, the following changes occur during its duration:

  • Anyone in need is accepted into shelters overnight without the usual eligibility checks.
  • Clients can go to any shelter overnight, not limited to their assigned shelter.
  • More community outreach teams will offer services on the streets.
  • There will be no suspensions or sanctions against shelters during these days.

What should I do if I see someone who appears to be homeless?

You can call 311 and ask for help, which will create a request for service and assign a social service provider or agency. An outreach team will then visit the site and invite the person to accept services after assessing their safety. You can also call 911 if you think a person is putting themselves or others in immediate danger.

What are service buses?

DHS is deploying five service buses throughout Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx to provide people experiencing homelessness with temporary respite from nighttime conditions on the streets. Staff are on site to assist each individual. Here's where people can find service buses:


  • Penn Station (34th Street + 7th Avenue)
  • Nearest metro station: A/C/E Train to 34 St./Penn Station
  • Bellevue Hospital (East 30th Street between FDR Drive + 1st Avenue)
    Nearest metro station: 6 train to 28 Street station


  • Queens Hospital Center (82-68 164th Street)
  • Nearest metro station: F train to Parsons Boulevard station
  • Elmhurst Hospital Center (79-01 Broadway)
  • Nearest metro station: 7 train to 82 Street station


  • Lincoln Hospital (234 East 149th Street)
  • Nearest metro station: 4/5 train to 149 St.-Grand Concourse station
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