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Warmer Weather Brings Homelessness Into The Open

OBSERVER Photo by Chirstopher Blakeslee Pictured is “Lil’ P” Paul, Wednesday morning who is living under the Main Street Viaduct, but was previously staying at various, designated, “Cold Blue” shelter housing in hotel rooms, provided by Chautauqua County during the winter months. However, because of the warmer weather, individuals like Paul have sought shelter in places the viaduct, and other commonly known locations around the city.

Summertime normally signifies the return of warmer and more gentle weather to the area – it also tends to ‘un-hibernate’ those who are homeless, unhoused and at-risk.

It doesn’t take long for one to look around Brooklyn Square, the Maine Street Viaduct, catacombs, and along the Riverwalk to see various homeless individuals pushing shopping carts full of their possessions. The erections of temporary tent encampments and makeshift shelters are a visible reminder that homelessness is still an issue for the city.

It has been reported by some who work in the social services sector that the demand for social services tends to be in greater demand during warmer months than with colder months – especially when dealing with the unhoused population.

“We’re nearly full. We can take one more person and that’s it,” said Liz Witherspoon, the program manager for the United Christian Advocacy Network’s City Mission. “I think, because of the warmer weather, flooding, and the closure of “cold-blue” sheltering services in the summertime, we tend to see more of the unhoused out in the open.”

Code-Blue shelter programs in New York state fall under the auspices of the New York Department of Social Services, Department of Homeless Services. According to nyc.gov/site, a “Code Blue” is declared any time temperatures reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m. – wind chill included – and any homeless or unhoused person must be housed, and the 62 counties which reside within the state are the governmental agencies responsible for the administration of the states ‘Code Blue’ program.

OBSERVER Photo by Chirstopher Blakeslee A woman, who is homeless, was seen waking up Wednesday morning, after camping out near the Riverwalk.

As previously reported by The Post-Journal, Chautauqua County has reportedly a significant homelessness issue.

However, not all individuals who are homeless really want help or support and will only ask when they’ve hit dire straits.

One such person is a larger-than-life character who goes by the moniker of “Big Red”. Red, by all accounts is a 6-foot, 3-inch, 270-pound individual who was living happily in the woods and preferred that his location stay hidden as previously reported in The Post-Journal in March.

Currently, even “Big Red” has fallen on hard times. It has been reported that “Big Red’s” camp was flooded out and he fell into a swamp, perpetrating his coming out of the woods and seeking accommodations and services.

Wednesday morning, at around 8:30 a.m. two individuals were found sheltering under the Main Street Bridge. When questioned about their current situation, they shed some light on it, lending credence to Witherspoon’s comments.

“I was staying in a hotel, but with the weather breaking … now I’m stuck here,” said Paul, who prefers to go by his street name “Lil’ P” and does not have his real name released for fear of retribution.

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