Code Purple Sussex County set to offer shelter for homeless

Nikki Gonzalez, Sussex County Code Purple director, addresses volunteers during last year’s Code Purple season. Submitted photos

SUSSEX COUNTY — Emergency overnight shelter for the homeless in the upcoming winter season will again be offered downstate through Code Purple agencies in Kent and Sussex counties.

Like many entities, the ministerial effort has undergone change and faces restrictions and challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Code Purple Sussex County, empowered by Love INC (In the Name of Christ) of Mid-Delmarva, will open doors to five of the participating shelters from Dec. 1 through March 15, regardless of temperature.

A sixth shelter, Laurel Nazarene, is not scheduled to open until Jan. 1.

With final memorandum of understanding approval, the former Delaware State Police Troop 7 barracks in Lewes will become a seventh shelter, serving the greater Cape region.

On Nov. 20, the five-member Commission on State Surplus Real Property “approved unanimously the temporary access agreement between Love INC and the state for the use of the old Troop 7 location as a Code Purple shelter, from the date of the signed agreement through April 1 with full access in regards to no temperature stipulation as there was last year,” State Sen. Ernie Lopez said.

As of Saturday morning, the MOU had not yet been received for review by Code Purple/Love INC, Sussex Code Purple Director Nikki Gonzalez said.

A handful of shelters will open in Kent on Dec. 1, too, if temperatures dip into the 30s.

On all shelter fronts, volunteers are desperately needed.

“We are struggling with the fear factor for volunteers. They don’t want to risk their health in order to help us,” said Ms. Gonzalez. “We only have a handful of overnight volunteers for the shelters so far. We are doing everything per CDC (Centers for disease Control) so that people can be assured that we are keeping it as safe as possible.”

“We need to get the word out that we need overnight volunteers still. We have a majority of older volunteers that usually stay and this year we need the younger population to step up,” Ms. Gonzalez said.

Tom Chilton, entering his fifth season as Code Purple site coordinator at Milford’s Avenue United Methodist Church, where he is a member, echoes that.

“We need volunteers,” Mr. Chilton said. “Unfortunately we have lost two or three volunteers who would volunteer at least one night a week or every other week. And that is going to hurt us this year. I’m not sure how we are going to fill that void, but we will, hopefully.”

Official Code Purple shelters (including gender of overnight guests) are:

• Pathways Building at Stein Highway Church of God, 425 Stein Highway, Seaford; MEN ONLY; check-in 8:30 p.m.; check-out, 7 a.m.

• Grace Seaford Church, 805 Atlanta Road, Seaford; WOMEN ONLY; check-in 8:30 p.m.; check-out, 7 a.m.; to-go dinners for Seaford area will be available for pick up from the CROSS Building, 703 E. King Street, Seaford.

• Avenue United Methodist Church, 20 N. Church Street, Milford; MEN ONLY); check-in 8:30 p.m.; check-out 7 a.m.;

• Milford Nazarene, 11 NW Salevan Pl., Milford; WOMEN (with or without children) ONLY; Check-in 8:30 p.m.; checkout 7 p.m.; dinner- The Gathering at the Table Family Kitchen, at Milford Presbyterian Church, 101 S. Walnut Street.

• Laurel Nazarene, 100 Walnut drive, Laurel; MEN; check-in 8:30 p.m.; checkout 6 a.m.; meals provided on site;

• Georgetown Presbyterian Church, 203 N. Bedford Street, Georgetown; MEN; check-in 9 p.m. (except Saturdays, 11 p.m.); check-out 7 a.m.; no dinner provided at this time;

• Former Troop 7 barracks, Lewes; pending final agreement/memorandum of understanding; through April 1; other details TBA.

In addition, Brandywine Counseling & Community Services, at 769 E. Master Circle, Suite 113/115, Milford is available as a referral resource for anyone experiencing homelessness.

Delaware’s Commission on State Surplus Real Property Friday unanimously approved the use of the former Delaware State Police Troop 7 barracks facility in Lewes as a shelter for Sussex County Code Purple.

Mr. Chilton says Code Purple’s efforts can be lifesavers.

“What it means to me is possibly saving lives or in our case men that would be out in the cold during the winter where the possibilities of them freezing, getting sick … providing a safe haven for them, a place where they can go, keep warm and get a good night’s sleep,” Mr. Chilton said.

Ms. Gonzalez estimates Sussex County Code Purple served around 275 guests each of the last couple of winters.

This season, because of COVID-related restrictions, the number of beds is limited. Also, advanced reservations are required, and Centers for Disease Control’s recommended best practices for social distancing and facial coverings must be followed.
There will be no community dinners as in the past. Each shelter will vary in how guests are fed.

“The two biggest changes are the request that anyone wishing to stay must call Love INC and do an intake and reserve a spot at a shelter. This is due to the limited number of beds that we can provide this season,” said Ms. Gonzalez. “The second is the removal of a family-style dinner. We are trying to provide hefty to-go food bags so that they can have food throughout the day.”

Mr. Chilton says elimination of the dinner setting removes “family time” factor.

Homeless guests must reserve a bed for the night ahead of time. Guests must follow the instructions to call each morning to reserve a bed for the night. This will allow for volunteers and staff to manage and fill as many beds as are available.

“We don’t want any empty beds,” said Ms. Gonzalez.

Guests must call Love INC at 629-7050 Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the Hotline at 519-0024 Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Additional information is available at the Code Purple website:
Code Purple Sussex County is counting on community support.

“We need the community to provide to-go food (which is listed on the website as well),” said Ms. Gonzalez.

Mr. Chilton says except for registered sex offenders, doors at Avenue UMC are open to all Code Purple male guests.

No temperature check

The state surplus commission’s Nov. 20 approval paves the way for a shelter with no temperature restriction in Eastern Sussex County. The closest Code Purple shelter is in Georgetown.

The Troop 7 site came on board in January, although access was restricted to nights only when the temperature forecast was at or below the freezing mark.

Sen. Lopez said he and Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf pressed the state for no temperature restriction this season.

“Since the state had never done anything like this before, they felt as though they needed to have some sort of a backstop, which again was understandable,” said Sen. Lopez. “The temperature shouldn’t matter in regard to making sure that those who don’t have shelter have shelter. That was something that Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf and I really pushed for this year.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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