“It’s 16 degrees right now,” Teti told commissioners. “Tomorrow morning at 5 a.m., it’s going to be 5 degrees.” She said people will have to leave the YMCA at 5 a.m. but have no other place to go.
Those addressing the commissioners included former homeless people, representatives from Allentown Rescue Mission and advocates.
Rather than providing commissioners with an initial education about the need for more emergency shelters to protect the homeless in cold weather, some who spoke seemed to be continuing comments made last week to an entirely different municipal body: Allentown City Council.
Some of their comments were angry, and in response to a two-page memo on the homeless issue that was released Tuesday by Allentown managing director Francis Dougherty.
Muller said the county’s role is emergency services and somewhat limited. “We come in when an emergency is declared by, in this case, the city.” He said Lehigh County is going to begin issuing Code Blue cold weather declarations “but it is up to the city to take it from there.”
Mazziotti said he thought it was pretty much a city responsibility.
“Largely this is a city issue, not a county issue,” confirmed Muller. “But we’re looking at what other counties have done.”
“I will leave here tonight with more questions than answers,” Scheller, chairwoman of the commissioners, told the audience after many had spoken. “I don’t think you’re going to hear any extended dialogue here on the dais about what has been said. But I’m sure there are going to be conversations, as we explore the issue and come to conclusions and recommendations.”
Homeless advocate Rich Fegley told commissioners: “City Council left us hanging last Wednesday, just as I feel you are going to leave us hanging tonight. The county is wiping their hands of this.” He charged that the county and city are passing the homeless issue back and forth. .
Scheller told Fegley: “Granted, it’s a very cold night. But you didn’t come to us in the middle of the summer and say ‘we need places to stay.’ This is the first time it’s been brought before our board in the two-plus-years I have been on this board.”
As Scheller spoke, Fegley walked out of the meeting, and told commissioners: “You are all failures to the homeless this evening.”