Homeless advocates and charitable organizations are blasting the move. The city’s previous temperature trigger was 13 degrees.
Most other cities open emergency shelters when temperatures hit freezing, or 32 degrees.
“Figure out the overflow for God’s sake! These are PEOPLE! Many of them families and veterans,” wrote one critic on Facebook.
Jacquelyn Duval-Harvey, director of the Mayor’s Office of Human Services, disclosed the plan on Wednesday. It was revealed during a meeting of the Journey Home board, which advises the city on homeless services, according to local media reports.
The policy was presented as final, but Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake appeared to be back-tracking in the wake of public criticism.
The city apparently will make just over 200 emergency beds available during cold weather, but will not increase that number until the temperature hits zero, according to Antonia Fasanelli, who sits on the board.
“It’s outrageous,” one homeless advocate said. “How would people on the streets even know something is open when it’s zero degrees?”
Critics say the city’s move is budgetary. Temperatures in the city rarely fall to or below zero, which means the city will not have to shoulder the expense of providing emergency beds.
New York City and Philadelphia generally open emergency beds to the homeless when temperatures get below 32 degrees.
Under the city’s previous administration, an overflow building was open all winter regardless of temperature, according to local reports.
At least 3,000 people are homelessness on any given night in Baltimore, which has a population of about 650,000. More than 30,000 residents are homeless at some point over the course of a year, according to the city health department.
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