City of Santa Fe’s Code Blue Protocol
- Cold snaps under 15 degrees activate City of Santa Fe Code Blue protocols. When Code Blue is in effect, the City Fire Department’s Alternative Response Unit (ARU), in collaboration with Consuelo’s Place and Pete’s Place, take action to get unsheltered people into safe, warm places.
- ARU staff, consisting of case managers & paramedics, find and talk with unsheltered people to find out what they need to be safe in the elements. Staff members work to gently persuade them to come inside to a warm and safe place to get out of the cold.
- People can go to Pete’s Place or sleep in a warming area at Consuelo’s Place, where their pets are also welcome. In both their encounter outdoors with the ARU and with shelter staff, they’re met by professionals who sincerely care about them and seek to meet their needs.
- If an unsheltered person won’t accept the ARU’s offer, they will still receive a warming kit with hats, gloves, hand and foot warmers and subzero ponchos, along with an open invitation to come to one of the safe spaces whenever they’re ready.
- Code Blue has been City policy for two years, and is based on Built for Zero principles.
On Code Blue, Unsheltered People, Solving Homelessness
Op-Ed by Kyra Ochoa, Community Health and Safety Department Director
The 552 women and men who work in the City’s Community Health and Safety Department are tasked with a critically important job: Keep our entire community healthy and safe. Police, Firefighters, Paramedics, Emergency Management, Case Managers, Park Rangers, and Community Services staff in our libraries, senior centers, youth programs and recreation centers all pull together every day to achieve that purpose. For the Park Rangers, Police, and Fire Department, that means making sure unauthorized camping doesn’t increase the risk of wildfires and other public health hazards. It also means getting folks to shelter so no one dies from hypothermia in Santa Fe.
For the Fire Department’s Alternative Response Unit (ARU) and participating shelters—Consuelo’s Place and Pete’s—a cold snap of 15 degrees or below activates the City’s Code Blue protocol. The ARU works longer hours on these nights, as do shelter staff. ARU staff—case managers and paramedics--connect one on one with people who have no shelter. They talk with them and find out their Apersonal story, what they are struggling with, and what they need. And they gently persuade them, when they can, to come in where it’s warm and safe.
Code Blue has been a City policy for 2 years. It came from a conversation Mayor Webber had with his friend Roseanne Haggerty, whose Built for Zero initiative has supported 14 communities around the country in ending homelessness. Participation in Built for Zero has propelled the City to invest $4 million of federal funds in converting hotels to affordable housing, providing homes to over 100 formerly homeless people. We also stood up Consuelo’s Place at the Midtown Shelter during COVID to stop the spread of the virus in congregate settings. In the last three years, 189 people, including families with children, have been sheltered there. One quarter of them have moved on to permanent housing.
Here’s how Code Blue works. Partnering with shelters and hospital emergency rooms, the City’s Emergency Management Department has created a protocol, designed to get unsheltered people into safe, warm places. The hard work of the ARU and of shelter staff has resulted in a significant increase in the number of unsheltered people who are coming in out of the cold. When Code Blue began the number was zero. As recently as last week, ARU transported 16 people to safe, warm shelter, and nourishing food. “Getting people into shelter is a victory,” says ARU case manager Jessica Carr. “A great feeling.”
People can go to Pete’s or sleep in a warming area at Consuelo’s Place, where their pets are also welcome. They get a hot meal and a warm place to be. Most of all, both in their encounter outdoors with the ARU and with shelter staff, they’re met by professionals who sincerely care about them, who encourage them to take care of themselves, who listen to them and seek to meet their needs.
Of course, there are still unsheltered people who won’t accept the ARU’s offer—yet. These folks get warming kits that include hats, gloves, hand and foot warmers and subzero ponchos, along with an open invitation to come to one of the safe spaces whenever they’re ready.
Over the last 4 years, despite COVID and other challenges, we’ve tried a lot that’s different, and have adopted one of the most progressive approaches to ending homelessness of any city in America. We joined the Built for Zero movement and adopted a comprehensive strategy to end chronic and veteran homelessness in Santa Fe.
Using federal CARES Act money, we helped purchase the Santa Fe Suites motel, providing real homes for previously unsheltered Santa Feans. Thanks to St. Elizabeth’s, the residents there also have the benefit of wrap-around services, helping them to get their lives back on track.
We continue to fund the operation of Consuelo’s Place at midtown, where another 60 Santa Feans at any given time have safe, warm, individual rooms where they can escape homelessness.
Working with the Interfaith Shelter, we continue to offer food, congregate shelter, clothing, health care and other services to people needing a temporary, overnight place to sleep. We now have two Alternative Response Units in operation, and we have Code Blue on bitter cold nights.
Can we do more? Yes. Converted motel rooms, modular tiny homes and safe sleeping villages, instead of encampments. More social services instead of incarceration. Do we need every member of our community’s help to do it? Yes.
Community Health and Safety means health and safety for every member of our community. Fourteen other communities have ended chronic and veteran homelessness. Santa Fe can be number fifteen.