Community workday set for Monday as Lewes Code Purple shelter prepares to open

LEWES — With the state’s formal blessing, work is underway in earnest to transform the former Delaware State Police Troop 7 barracks into a temporary shelter for the homeless in the Cape Region.

On Wednesday, the Commission on State Surplus Real Property unanimously voted to allow the now vacated police barracks on Del. 1 to be used as a Code Purple Sussex County homeless shelter through Love INC of Mid-Delmarva during the remaining winter period.

A huge community workday initiative is planned from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, according to Love INC Director Susan Kent. Much-needed donations can be dropped off and prospective volunteers can register at the former troop headquarters.

The community is invited “to come sign up to volunteer, to clean, bring supplies, and catch vision for this season at (former) Troop 7,” Ms. Kent said.

Nikki Gonzalez, director of Code Purple Sussex County, said the shelter’s opening hinges greatly on Monday’s community day event.

“That workday is what is going to get us … hopefully Monday night. If everything gets done Monday, we could open that Monday night,” said Ms. Gonzalez.

With word in December that a previous cold-weather shelter in the Cape Region would not be opening this season, Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, a Democrat from Rehoboth, and Sen. Ernie Lopez, a Republican from Lewes, spearheaded the effort for the former state police barracks to be used by Love INC.

“I must stress that this is a temporary shelter only for the next two and a half months,” said Rep. Schwartzkopf, in announcing the state’s decision this past week. “It will not be available next year so we, as a community, need to work together to find a location long before next winter gets here.”

“We are in this for the long haul,” said Ms. Kent. “The state representatives have repetitively said this is temporary, and we thank them for the now, because it’s important now. We will have to continue to lean into locations accepting of the homeless for next year.

“While it feels the perfect fit to continue at Troop 7 that is not being offered. I suspect the state surplus and leadership in place have plenty of their own plans of their property and I trust their plans to be for the good of the community. I can’t help but think, however, how much opposition there historically has been in cape region in trying to find home for homeless help, but when the announcement that Troop 7 would be used for the homeless was released, the entire community celebrated and has been hugely supportive.

“That said, we are eager to begin new conversations with area stakeholders to find a way for next year’s launch to be ready prior to the cold season and perhaps there can finally be solutions for the much needed year round solutions,” said Ms. Kent. “We certainly have vision plans casting for a more coordinated effort for neighbors who find themselves without housing.”

Code Purple Sussex County, empowered by Love INC, operates eight other shelters, which are open Dec. 1 through March 15, regardless of temperature. Those shelters are located in Georgetown (Georgetown Presbyterian Church), Seaford (St. Luke’s Episcopal Church), Bridgeville (Gateway Fellowship), Milford (Avenue United Methodist Church, and Milford Nazarene), Laurel (Laurel Nazarene), Delmar (Renovate Church) and Bethany Beach (Bethany Stone House).

The Lewes site will provide shelter on Code Purple evenings when the temperature is below the freezing mark (32 degrees Fahrenheit) through April 1.

“Those were not our stipulations. Those were the stipulations put on us. So we kind of do that or nothing,” said Ms. Gonzales.
The Lewes shelter will open its doors to both men and women, a contrast to the practice at other sites.

“We were going to the two buildings, but we weren’t allowed,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “So, I am kind of breaking my rules in housing men and women together. We’ll see how that goes. But hopefully, we can help as many people as we are allowed to in the days that we are allowed to.”

Rep. Schwartzkopf and Sen. Lopez held a press conference Thursday at the former Troop 7 to provide Love INC personnel a chance to get the word out about volunteers and supplies they need to operate the shelter.

According to Ms. Kent, current needs include: 64 quart plastic clear sturdy totes (32 needed); microwave; coffee pot; coffee and supplies (cream, sugar); cases of bottled water; tables and chairs (light and easy to move to set up for dinner; six card tables will work, 20 chairs); three 6-foot tables and one 8 foot table; refrigerator; shelving (sturdy but easy to move); four trash cans and trash liners (64 gallon-plus and 33 gallon); laundered clean white sheets; hygiene products; disinfectant and cleaning products; toilet paper; paper towels; Clorox wipes; pop-top hearty foods; and buckets, brooms, vacuum and mops.

The United Way reached out to corporate sponsors to provide the shelter with cots, blankets and pillows, Ms. Kent said.

The barracks became available when Troop 7 moved into its new base on Mulberry Knoll Road in mid-December.

For more information on this initiative or Code Purple Sussex County in general, visit the Code Purple Sussex County website at: https://codepurplesussexcounty.com/.