Code Purple seeks volunteers for women and children sanctuaries

 

DOVER — Being homeless in the frigid temperatures that the city of Dover has experienced thus far this winter can be a matter of life and death.

That’s why Becky Martin, the director of Code Purple of Kent County, has been frantically searching to find volunteers so the organization can provide overnight sanctuary for women and children in Dover on Saturdays and Tuesdays.

“It is a major problem that we are facing right now,” Mrs. Martin said. “We think we can get a facility, but the biggest difficulty is getting volunteers to come in and stay overnight.

“A lot of people want to volunteer but they don’t want to stay. It’s a big commitment.”

It’s also a serious concern considering that Code Purple was open on Monday night at Maranatha Life Changing Church on East Division Street in Dover and brought 14 women and children out of the cold and provided them with warm meals.

Currently, on Saturdays and Tuesdays, homeless women and children meet at the Dover Public Library when temperatures drop to 32 degrees and below and are transported to the Milford Multi-Cultural Church and Community Center where they find sanctuary from the cold.

Mrs. Martin said she truly appreciates all that Pastor Richie Portalatin does by offering his facility in Milford to Dover’s women and children.

“He’s a godsend to us,” she said, of Pastor Portalatin. “Unfortunately, his building at the Milford Community Center is going up for sale. He needs to raise some funds in order to keep the building so that he can keep the great work that he’s doing.

“I call him and he says, ‘I’ll take the women and children, just get them down here’ and ‘Whatever you need, I’ll take care of it.’ He is always a tremendous help.”

While Mrs. Martin is thankful for all that Pastor Portalatin does, she said his location is not an ideal situation.

The biggest challenge with taking women and children to Milford from Dover twice a week is that many of the women have jobs that won’t allow them to catch the bus either to or from the Milford facility.

“It’s a huge problem for many women who have jobs because they’re not going to come in because they aren’t able to make the ride to Milford,” Mrs. Martin said. “I have one girl who works at a grocery store and she goes to work at 8 a.m. She can’t get to Milford and she’s currently staying in a tent.

“We have some ladies who work in Dover until 8 or 9 p.m. … and some who need to go to work at 7 a.m. These women will have to find somewhere to stay. It’s sad to think we can’t open in our own town due to no volunteers for overnight and a facility not available.”

City Councilman David Anderson wrote on his Facebook page that this is a serious concern that needs to be addressed quickly.

“Help needed,” Councilman Anderson posted last Friday. “It was sad that Dover had no Code Purple women’s shelter for some days of the week. Then the bus for CP broke down. Maranatha Life Changing Church stepped up and took every remaining day but Saturday.

“Now a church facility is available for Saturday, but they cannot open. They need volunteers. Any ladies willing to contact Code Purple. You could literally save a life by mostly showing up and catching up on a book. How about it?”

While milder temperatures are in the forecast the next couple of days for Dover, the National Weather Service is predicting a low temperature of 17 degrees on Saturday night, with no sanctuary available in the capital city for women and children.

Eric Abernathy, an advocate for the homeless, regularly speaks during the public forum session that takes place before Dover City Council meetings.

He spoke prior to the Dec. 11 meeting about the serious nature of people trying to survive out in the cold.

“There had been two deaths on the street in the past three weeks and a total of four deaths in the past year and a half,” Mr. Abernathy said. “A homeless man was found dead in his tent the previous Saturday morning (Dec. 9).

“It is a sad situation when people die on the street because they have no place to live and nowhere to go. I really hope something can be done for the homeless before this happens again.”

To learn more about volunteering for Code Purple in Kent County or to donate, visit codepurplekentcounty.com.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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