Cumberland County Code Blue Concludes Fifth Season

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Dr. Robin “Rob” Weinstein, Chair of the Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition and President of the M25 Initiative, today announced that the Code Blue Season will officially end on April 15, 2018.

Code Blue is a grassroots movement of churches and community members responding to the needs of homeless individuals. Code Blue is funded by community contributions made to the M25 Initiative (501c3). The program was created to provide "Warming Centers" as a way for homeless persons in the community to find shelter from frigid overnight temperatures during the cold winter months.

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“The Code Blue Program in Cumberland County began on December 10, 2013, as a community response to the tragic death of Mr. Joseph Hanshaw, who suffocated to death in a Salvation Army Clothing Bin while trying to escape the harsh winter elements,” said Dr. Weinstein. “From a tragedy in our community emerged a triumph of a program that puts love into action. Code Blue is good news because it has shown that ordinary people are willing and capable to do extraordinary acts of compassion by planting seeds of love demonstrating faith in action.”

Through the work of the Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition, which is a wholly volunteer effort and donor-funded program, a record-setting 45 nights of Code Blue assistance this past winter, which was an increase of 36% from the 2016-2017 season, and an increase of 80% from the 2015-2016 season.

With over 300 approved volunteers, the Code Blue program provided warm shelter and food to an average census of 55 homeless individuals in our three major cities: Bridgeton, Millville, and Vineland. During one of the coldest nights this winter, the warming centers provided shelter to 88 homeless individuals.

Code Blue volunteers provided over 4,300 dinners to our area homeless and poor (an increase of 43% from 2016-2017 season), and a total of 2450 overnight warming center stays for homeless individuals (an increase of 63.3% from 2016-2017 season). Code Blue Warming Centers in Bridgeton and Millville also stayed open into daytime hours during extreme weather conditions.

Each night of Code Blue requires a minimum of 42 volunteers to work shifts in the three municipalities who provide 3-5 hours of coverage, which amounts to over 5670 hours during this past season. Code Blue also requires a minimum of $500 per night to operate to cover reimbursement to churches, equipment, and other related needs.

“Our Code Blue program would not be possible without the tireless efforts and commitment of our volunteer municipal coordinators,” said Weinstein. “They are the wind beneath the wings of this community movement and deserve our sincerest appreciation and admiration.”

The Municipal Program Coordinators are:

Bridgeton: Ms. Nina Young, Coordinator/ Mr. Nick Dobrowolski, Deputy Coordinator

Vineland: Ms. Cathy Gardner, Coordinator/ Ms. Christine Marin, Deputy Coordinator

Millville: Ms. Cindi Cooke, Coordinator/ Mrs. Susan Stowe, Deputy Coordinator

In calculating the totals of the homeless in Code Blue from 2015-2018, the Coalition found an 11% reduction in participants, which is attributed to a program that emerged from Code Blue: the Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative. Since June of 2017, the Collaborative has successfully housed over 37 chronically homeless individuals, and has set a goal of housing 60 by the end of 2018.

The Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative is a unique consortium of social service organizations, faith-based institutions, and government officials committed to tackling the problem of chronic homelessness in Cumberland County.  The guiding agency of this collaborative is the M25 Initiative, a nonprofit organization based in Bridgeton, which also facilitates the grassroots Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition. The other partners of the collaborative include Gateway Community Action Partnership, PRAC of New Jersey, Resources for Independent Living, Volunteers of America Delaware Valley, Cumberland County Jail, Inspira Health Network, and CompleteCare Health Network.

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The M25 Initiative is the designated fundraising arm for the Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition and the Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative. The M25 Initiative is a 501c3 non-profit in Cumberland County, NJ created for the sole purpose of engaging, equipping, empowering, and mobilizing individuals and organizations to employ innovative and cooperative solutions to alleviate suffering, feed the hungry, end poverty, reduce crime, revitalize a spirit community and transform lives!

“What we are also witnessing is the evidence that positive change in our community does not come from policies and politicians, but ‘We, the People’ and our practices of practicing hospitality, extending mercy, working for justice, and sacrificially loving one another. Through the actions of countless volunteers who sow their love through volunteering, we are reaping a harvest of hope, and the direction of our community is turning toward better days! Love always overcomes evil, and hope always triumphs over despair,” concluded Weinstein.

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