Rochester, N.Y. - Michael McLamore is warming up at a table with several other men, recalling the nights when he had no where to go. “There was many times I was out in the cold, I know what it’s like,” he said.
McLamore is 50 and has spent many a cold night huddled in doorways since living on the streets off and on since age 15. “I just found some building to sleep in and it was warm and certain people would let me come in and sleep in the hallways,” he recalled.
With temperatures dipping to the coldest so far this year, he spent last night at the Open Door Mission on West Main Street.
On any given night in Rochester 300 people will sleep out on the streets or huddled in various make-shift shelters or abandoned buildings. When it is this cold, and they’ve had enough, there is a safety net.
Asked if he has ever turned anyone away, supervisor David Appleton replied “not on the coldest of the cold nights. We’ll always find space.”
The mission has activated “Code Blue” status. It is open around the clock, prepared to break down the tables and chairs in the main meeting room to house an extra 40 men, a total capacity of 80.
“People do know that when the temperature gets really bad they can always come here. There are some people who we will see only at this time,” said Appleton.
Brindley Farrington said he’s been homeless for about a year and a half. Most days he fills with routine stops, and hangs out most nights in “one or two” locations.
When temperatures drop, he’s forced to abandon that routine and every night is uncertain. “I’m worried about it now because I’m trying to get something together,” he said.
Code blue is activated when temperatures and/or wind chill reach 20 degrees. On Sunday night, 10 more beds were filled. More will come Monday night.
“It will increase as the cold goes on,” said Appleton. “They’re in a situation where their tolerance is gone. Wherever they have been staying has become unlivable.”
For Dave DeMark, the first cold blue night of the year is his last. He has found permanent housing and is beginning the next chapter of his life.
“This is my lucky day, it feels great” said DeMark. Then he adds “I’ll probably be back for a meal tonight because I’m going to miss everybody.”