Code Blue: Keeping the homeless warm

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — When temperatures drop this low, it can be dangerous for people experiencing homelessness. Eyewitness News visited a local homeless shelter helping people get out of the cold.

It was brutally cold out Monday night, but imagine not being able to go home and turn on the heat. That’s the reality many people experiencing homelessness faced Monday night and volunteers at local shelters were doing what they could to help.

“I could barely walk I was so cold,” Joyce Lawhon said.

The frigid temperatures on Monday reminded Lawhon of being on the street with no winter coat and nowhere to go after losing her house. It was just before Thanksgiving.

“It was cold that night and I walked the streets of Wilkes-Barre for almost six hours, and I was very cold. I think about that all the time,” Lawhon said.

That was the night she arrived at Ruth’s Place. It’s the only emergency 24/7 homeless shelter for women in Luzerne County. Crystal Kotlowski, NEPA director for Volunteers of America – Pennsylvania, says she’s concerned for the safety of anyone unsheltered in the cold.

“Their safety, their physical well-being, that they have the supplies they need or that they get into a shelter as soon as possible. The temperatures being like this is very very dangerous, for their health and their safety,” Kotlowski said.

Ruth’s Place sees more women in the colder months. Right now, they’re pushing capacity with 16, but they try not to turn anyone away. Lawhon says she’s grateful to be out of the cold, especially on a night like Monday.

“Places like this are so needed. I hear people calling and those phones ring all the time for people looking for a place to sleep,” Lawhon said.

She says volunteers at the shelter are helping her get back on her feet.

“In six months I’m coming back as a volunteer. I want to be here. I want to be here because this….It saved my life,” Lawhon said.

For more information about homeless assistance programs, visit dhs.pa.gov.

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