HOUSING + HOMELESSNESS

Utah shelters prepare to take in more people under Code Blue protocol

Nov 27, 2023, 6:38 AM | Updated: 6:39 am

several people sit at a table to eat a meal...

Unsheltered individuals are seen having lunch at St. Vincent de Paul Center. The center opened Monday for winter overflow, adding 65 temporary beds for the season. (Don Grayston, Deseret News)

(Don Grayston, Deseret News)

OGDEN — A majority of Utah counties were in Code Blue status Sunday, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Under a new law, resource centers and other spaces are required to expand their capacity up to 35% if the National Weather Service predicts the temperature will fall to 15 degrees Fahrenheit or below, including wind chill.

“We are the emergency shelter,” said Lauren Navidomskis, Lantern House executive director. “Our emergency shelter flexes a little bit in our space and occupancy to ensure that everybody can come into our facility and make sure they get the basic things that they need.”

Code Blue is legally mandated

She said Ogden City has been following Code Blue protocol for the last three years. She said it’s helpful that it’s now legally mandated.

“It’s exciting that finally the state has recognized a call for help from the service providers that we need a safe place for people to go, and have a whole community supporting us,” Navidomskis said.

The Code Blue alert stays in effect for 24 hours. Navidomskis said Lantern House follows the protocol for seven days.

“We always have a space in our facility, we call it our community room, that people can come in and get out of the weather, but in Code Blue, we have an additional about 200 chairs that we can put up in a separate space,” she said.

Lantern House works with the Ogden Police Department to provide free transportation to the shelter. If shelters are entirely full, anti-camping laws cannot be enforced.

“If they aren’t willing to come in and that’s their choice, making sure that we have services to give to them whether it’s a coat or gloves or handwarmers, or maybe it’s a meal,” Navidomskis said.

About Lantern House

Lantern House takes in families and two pets per person. They have a total of 330 beds. If all of their beds are occupied, their overflow space is their soup kitchen. They can add up to 50 cots there. Navidomskis said shelter employees are trained to follow fire watch protocol.

As of Sunday, the shelter had not yet used the overflow space.

“We’re still really nervous to when we occupy that to 100%, but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” she said.

Under a Code Blue, individuals restricted from coming to Lantern House due to previous acts of violence, vandalism or drug use on the property are allowed inside, as long as they’re not an immediate threat to themselves or others.

“We have a couple other shelters that are willing to take people that aren’t welcome here,” Navidomskis said.

She said the shelter collaborates with other centers, hospitals, and law enforcement to get transport those individuals.

Navidomskis said more services and protocol like Code Blue will prevent people from dying on the street.

“Hearing that we’ve lost somebody or we have someone come in with extreme frostbite where they’re going to lose limbs…it can be preventable,” she said.

Navidomskis said, as the community learns about Code Blue, so are Ogden City and Lantern House.

“As someone dedicated to saving the lives of those most vulnerable in our community, we are doing so much,” she said. “We definitely know we can do more, and that’s made possible through additional funding, additional programs, affordable housing.”

Lantern House is in need of donations like coats, blankets, gloves and food.

Related: Bill houses unsheltered in churches, rec centers when temps turn deadly

 

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Utah shelters prepare to take in more people under Code Blue protocol