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Ogden enters Code Blue status with cold, but homeless agency doesn’t see demand spike

By Tim Vandenack - | Nov 29, 2023

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

The shelter at Lester Park in Ogden, where people without housing sometimes congregate, photographed Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.

OGDEN — As the temperatures drop and winter nears, Ogden has gotten cold enough several times to trigger Code Blue status, which calls for implementation of measures meant to safeguard the homeless population.

Thus far, though, Lauren Navidomskis, director of Lantern House, hasn’t noticed a spike in demand for services at the Ogden homeless shelter. Lantern House loosens its capacity restrictions to accommodate the homeless when a Code Blue alert is issued.

“We did not see an increase in people seeking services,” she said.

Code Blue status, determined by the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, goes into effect in a county when the temperature is expected to fall to 15 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Ogden and the rest of Weber County had been within its parameters on Sunday and Monday, though rising temperatures pulled the city out effective Tuesday, according to the HHS website.

In all, Navidomskis said Weber County has entered Code Blue status on six occasions since mid-October. As demand for homeless services typically dips around holidays like Thanksgiving — figuring, perhaps, in what was limited demand for Lantern House services over the cold weekend — she can rest relatively easy for the moment.

Even so, Lantern House and city officials are prepared. Ogden has had a Code Blue policy in effect since 2021.

Ogden police and emergency management officials launched the Ogden program two years ago “based on programs in other communities around the country,” said Mike McBride, spokesperson for the administration of Mayor Mike Caldwell. “The state has adopted the program based on Ogden’s success.”

Indeed, per House Bill 499, passed earlier this year by Utah lawmakers, Weber County as a whole along with Davis and Utah counties will have to craft winter-response plans to aid the homeless, though they have until later in 2024, ahead of the 2024-2025 winter season. McBride said Ogden’s homeless advocates, who operate within the police department, and local emergency management officials have been working with state officials to help craft winter-response plans around Utah.

Per the Ogden policy, Lantern House isn’t left to fend for itself in aiding the homeless. Ogden police also offer assistance.

“During a Code Blue, Ogden officers will watch for unsheltered individuals. When they encounter unsheltered individuals, they will remind them about safe sheltering. They will also transport them as needed and when practical and make sure they check in with Lantern House staff,” the Ogden Police Department said in a Facebook post on Sunday.

Likewise, Navidomskis said, police will forego enforcement of local ordinances prohibiting camping in public places during a Code Blue. Though Lantern House relaxes capacity restrictions during Code Blue periods, the agency may still turn back those who pose a potential threat to others in the shelter.

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