Reynaldo Ruiz knew it was too cold outside Tuesday when he felt his feet start freezing.
With no place else to go, the 37-year-old headed to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission on Bacharach Boulevard where he found a pair of boots and a warm place to spend the night.
“I needed this place,” he said. “This is a great spot where you can come, get warm and stay out of the elements.”
With temperatures expected to be below freezing all week — including some times with wind chill at 0 degrees Fahrenheit — Atlantic City issued a code blue, beginning Tuesday evening through 6 a.m. Saturday
The alert is issued when there are potentially life-threatening temperatures to those without adequate shelter.
Homeless people in the resort are being directed to stay at the Rescue Mission, which provides clothing, meals and sleeping accommodations.
Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Foley said the center can get as many as 600 people during a code blue, but the city is concerned there may be a need for more because of people whose boiler and heating systems were damaged
during Hurricane Sandy.
If more space is needed, the city will try to secure additional shelter space at local schools, he said.
Rescue Mission Director of Development Tom Davidson said they anticipated more than 400 people would arrive Tuesday and can accommodate more by hosting people at its other buildings. The mission works with its staff and city police officers and other employees to locate people who need a warm place to sleep.
The cold temperature can be very disorienting. Davidson said one of the mission’s clergy members brought in a woman he found on the street Tuesday who was not moving and had icicles coming out of her nose.
“We brought her in, wrapped her in blankets, and gave her warm soup. She’s doing better,” Davidson said. “When people get cold they lose the use of their faculties. They can’t move. It’s a serious issue. You have to dress warm.”
Several at the mission said they had no other alternative.
Spencer Cottman, a 58-year-old former U.S. Marine, said without the mission he would be out “walking the streets, praying in different churches.”
“I am so grateful for this place,” he said.
William Sabatine, 46, started staying at the mission a few weeks ago after he lost his job. Without the ability to use this organization he wouldn’t be able to stay in the area.
“I’m a survivor. If I had to be out in the cold, I would get on a bus heading south,” he said. “I’d pack up my tent and sleeping bag and say, ‘See you later.’”
Foley advises those on medication to make sure they have an adequate supply, as travel may be difficult during the cold weather. Foley also asked residents to check on elderly persons and pets.
The Atlantic City MUA advises residents to keep one faucet flowing — the stream should be the width of a straw — to help keep the pipes from freezing, Foley said.
Contact Joel Landau:
Follow Joel Landau on Twitter @landaupressofac