Last year’s winter brought snow and freezing temperatures to Philadelphia. January 2022 was an especially punishing month, with many frigid, back-to-back nights. So far, this winter has been easier to face. But temperatures can drop quickly and unexpectedly.

A sudden turn in the weather is extremely dangerous for people who are unsheltered. They can be caught unaware and unprepared. Sleeping in parked cars is also unsafe, and no match for subzero nights. At the time of this post’s publishing, the Office of Homeless Services (OHS) and its partner agencies are preparing for such a cold snap. In fact, preparation began months ago.

This blog post covers what Philadelphia’s homeless services system does when a Code Blue is activated. It also explains how you can pitch in to help our most vulnerable neighbors stay safe this winter.

What happens during a Code Blue?

The City declares a Code Blue when the forecast shows either wind chills of 20 degrees or below, or a temperature of 32 degrees or below with precipitation. During a Code Blue, the City takes special measures:

  • 24-hour outreach to find people who living on the street and transport them to safe indoor spaces.
  • Additional shelter beds.
  • People are allowed to stay inside emergency housing throughout the day.

Depending on the need, the City may take other measures to protect those Philadelphians who are most at risk from the dangerous cold. When the City activates such measures, it will communicate them to local television and radio stations and make announcements on social media.

How you can help

If you are concerned about someone out in the street during a cold snap or winter storm, please call the City’s homeless outreach hotline at (215) 232-1984. You may not remember that number when someone needs a life-saving call, so save it to your phone now.

You can call day or night. Trained outreach teams will go to the location you provide. Teams include expert staff, and sometimes people with lived experience of homelessness. They can provide a ride to a shelter and connect people to other vital services.

You don’t have to wait. You can help right now by sharing this information on social media, and by following OHS on Twitter to receive Code Blue announcements in the future.

Want to do more? Volunteer or donate to one of many organizations in Philadelphia that work to prevent homelessness and help people who are unhoused. There may be an organization in your own neighborhood.

SERVE Philadelphia lists many volunteer opportunities, including those at meal sites and homeless service organizations. To donate money, go to

Are you experiencing homelessness yourself? The City wants you to come in, out of the cold. You can call Homeless Outreach hotline for yourself at (215) 232-1984. You can also go to a homelessness intake center and speak with someone in-person.