SOUTH WALES, N.Y. — Freezing temperatures are more than just an inconvenience for people who are without a home or adequate heating. The first Code Blue shelter in rural Erie County hopes to provide some relief from the cold.

The Rural Outreach Center in East Aurora is turning the nearby South Wales Community Hall on Olean Road into a haven for those facing the bitter air across Southern Erie County.

Leaders with the center say residents outside the urban areas account for 65 percent of people in poverty in the county. Homelessness and housing that just can't stand up to the cold are major issues in those locations. The new Cold Blue site aims to offer warmth for those who need it on chilly nights.  

Frank Cerny, the Rural Outreach Center’s executive director, says the plight of those in poverty in rural parts of the region is often forgotten and underserved.

"The problems in the rural area are similar but in some ways more stark than what you see in other areas because there are no resources," said Cerny. "They have nothing to fall back on, they don't have a safety net and that's why we're here."

Beginning Monday, the Code Blue shelter will be open any night the temperature or windchill dips below 32 degrees. People can spend the night, and a hot breakfast will be served in the morning. Rides are available for those without cars.