Code Blue: Support for cold weather homeless shelters

January 13, 2015, 11:33 AM UTC

Most Americans say that local governments should be required to provide shelter to the homeless when it's freezing outside

As temperatures drop again in the northern part of the country, cities have begun to open the doors of their cold weather shelters. How cold, exactly, it has to get depends on the city. In Washington D.C. and New York, shelters open when it hits freezing, but in Baltimore they won't open until it's 13 degrees with windchill. The problem isn't just limited to northern cities, however, as the national cold snap recently saw a homeless man die from hypothermia in Myrtle Beach

YouGov's latest research shows that 68% of Americans say that local governments should be required to find beds for the homeless when it's below freezing outside, though 19% oppose such a requirement to provide shelter. A majority of every demographic group supports a shelter requirement when it's freezing. Support is highest in the Northeast (72%) and lowest in the West (59%). In the West, which includes the ever sunny and rarely freezing California coast, 25% say that local governments should not have to shelter the homeless when it's freezing. 

Asked about providing shelter for the homeless regardless of the weather, Americans only narrowly favor (43%) rather than oppose (38%) requiring local governments to find shelter space for every homeless person in the community throughout the year. There is a significant partisan divide on this question, with 60% of Democrats saying that local governments should provide year-round shelter, while 60% of Republicans say that they should not. 

Regionally, most people in the Northeast (54%) think that local governments should provide shelter through the year. In the South people also tend to agree (45%), but in the Midwest and West tend to oppose the requirement. 46% of people in each region say that governments should not provide year-round shelter for the homeless.

Full poll results can be found here.