Emmanuel focused on helping homeless

Code Purple director Pastor Ennio Emmanuel serves a hoot cooked meal to the homeless at the Maranatha Life Changing Church Youth Center in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Anybody could easily glance at Ennio Emmanuel’s personal schedule and assume he already has too much on his plate as an insurance agent, owner of a coffee shop in Milford and as an award-winning Latin singer.

However, none of those other jobs and responsibilities have proven to be more exciting to Mr. Emmanuel than in helping to provide shelter — and a more positive future — for the homeless people in Kent County.

That’s why Mr. Emmanuel, even with his hectic lifestyle, decided to accept a personal challenge and became director of Code Purple Kent County, an organization that he is trying to expand and start new and different programs with for the homeless population, which is estimated to be around 350 in the greater Dover area.

“None of those other things I’m involved with is more exciting than this,” said Mr. Emmanuel, who is a lightning bolt of energy. “This is my most exciting thing. I love helping people get from zero to hero, rehabilitating and getting better. That is my favorite thing.”

When the temperatures drop to freezing temperatures — 32 degrees — Code Purple guests are provided with dinner and breakfast, a warm bed, clothes, toiletries, blankets, tents and sleeping bags, and also with resources to help with medical, employment and financial issues.

Code Purple is active 365 days a year with Code in Need providing help to people in need of food, clothing, resources for shelter and resources for all needs.

Mr. Emmanuel has had to get things in order quickly this fall as temperatures quickly dropped into the 20-degree range early this season.

That led to emergency Cope Purple openings at Maranatha Life Changing Church at 1235 E. Division St. in Dover for homeless women and children and at Centennial United Methodist at 44 E. Mount Vernon St. in Smyrna for men last week.

The other three Code Purple sites will be opening if it’s 32 degrees or below starting in December.

Those other sites include People’s Church at 46 S. Bradford St. Presbyterian Church of Dover at 54 S. State St. and Wyoming United Methodist Church at 216 Wyoming Mill Road. All three of those sites are for homeless men in Dover.

“Why I took this position more than anything is because I just see myself being a person that can unite everyone together,” Mr. Emmanuel said. “It’s not something that I went after. I was actually thinking about moving to Puerto Rico next year to go help my friend open a church.”

Becky Martin, who served as the Code Purple Kent County director for the past six years before deciding to retire earlier this year, believes Mr. Emmanuel has what it takes to help the organization prosper.

“Ennio will be great,” she said. “He has the passion and the energy to make things happen. I support him 200 percent. I sit on the board of Code Purple, so my heart and my mission is still there.”

Jeanine Kleimo, chair at the Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing, also thinks Mr. Emmanuel might just be the spark that will be able to finally get help for the city’s homeless population.

“I’m so happy that he is the new (Code Purple) director,” Ms. Kleimo said. “I think that it’s wonderful that this church community has jumped in and that Ennio is working to coordinate it all and pull a lot of people together. We need a fresh face, a young man with new ideas and his enthusiasm is contagious.”

Mrs. Martin just wishes city officials would step up to help address the homeless problem rather than what she describes as forming committee after committee to discuss it.

“This is horrible weather that could cause lives to be lost,” she said. “I feel the city can also step up and make something available.”

New energy, new ideas

Mr. Emmanuel said he is not just bringing the status quo to Code Purple Kent County. He has big ideas, and the creativity and energy to make it happen.

He has already partnered with local Uber drivers to pick up homeless people in emergency situations, worked at preventing human trafficking, had two events to help train Code Purple volunteer staff, brought counselors into sanctuaries and is working on re-entry into the community by homeless prisoners.

“Kent County can be a 24/7 specialty of care area where in the morning (the homeless) can go to Hopes and Dreams and (Dover) Interfaith Mission for Housing, and then at nighttime they’ve got Code Purple,” Mr. Emmanuel said. “In between that you have the Department of Health and Social Services, the James Williams Service Center coming in, and we are going to be having counselors coming in at night to the sanctuaries this year.

“Doctors are going to be doing blood pressure, blood sugars, all those things. I’m trying to tell the site leaders that you have all these people here at night, by daytime they could be a new person before they even get to Interfaith or Hopes and Dreams. That’s how we have to view it.”

He wants to be aggressive in helping the homeless overcome their problems, whether they be drug or alcohol addition, lack of employment of mental issues.

“I don’t want people to become complacent in homelessness and that’s what happens often because it can become comfortable to not have to worry about anything … to be with your best friend or family member and kind of just hang out,” he said, “and now with technology it’s kind of hurt us because they can be on their cellphone all day long.

“Instead of them being in the sanctuary on their cellphone or watching a wall I’d rather there be a person sitting there and helping them, because that will also help break that complacency.”

Mr. Emmanuel’s father was arrested as a teenager and spent six years in prison. That is one of the things that piqued his interest in helping the prison population successfully re-enter into society.

“Men and women who are coming out of prison who are homeless cannot usually leave the prison if they’re homeless,” he said. “We’ll be working with the Department of Social Services to solve that issue and end homelessness for our re-entry participants and make sure they also come out rehabilitated.”

Volunteers are the
MVPs of Code Purple

A Code Purple program cannot successfully survive without a solid number of dedicated volunteers.

That, Mr. Emmanuel said, is one thing that Code Purple Kent County has, though there is always room for more.

“Our volunteer list right now is at about 305 people, which are solid volunteers that are helping us out and last year we did more than 7,000 volunteer hours, so out of those 305 volunteers you have maybe 20 percent who are usually the hardest workers,” Mr. Emmanuel said. “So out of those 300 people we have around 60 people who are hardcore volunteer workers doing 7,000 hours of free volunteer work to help out homeless people, who are on drugs or they might be on alcohol or have mental-health issues, so our people doing volunteer work are also working with a population that needs the attention and needs love.

“So not only are the volunteers giving up their time, they’re giving up a lot of their emotions. The time they would spend reading with their kids or being with their family, they’re spending it with people who also need attention, so it’s tough.”

There will be trauma training for anyone interested in becoming a Code Purple Kent County volunteer this Wednesday from 6 until 8 p.m. at United Methodist Church at 216 Wyoming Mill Road in Dover.

“The training will show you how to deal with checking in people, how it looks like to set up an air mattress and a bed and give people toiletries,” said Mr. Emmanuel. “Then we move into the how to deal with trauma and crisis because you have some trauma and crisis issues when you’re dealing with this population.

“After that, we go into case management and also a spectrum of care, because this year we are going to work to sit down with individuals who are willing to work with us and we’re going to get their information and also partner with the Department of Social Services and make sure — especially if they’re new homeless people in our town — that they have their IDs or their Social Security card and they’re getting their state benefits, anything like that that they need and WIC and food stamps.”

He added they will also talk to the homeless about being taken advantage of, such as people offering them a room for sexual favors and things that could lead to the growing problem of human trafficking.

At least one life
touched per day

Mr. Emmanuel believes that if he is not touching at least one life per day, then he isn’t doing his job.

“I actually got a call four days ago from a 20-year-old stuck at a Chick-Fil-A because two homeless people had brought him down from New York to here,” he said. “They were from here and they went up there and they brought (the 20-year-old) down and they were on drugs and partying and at this point he was already stranded at a Chick-Fil-A in Camden and he called us.

“Danny (an Uber driver) went and got the young man from Chick-Fil-A and set him over to Hopes and Dreams, where he got food and a little bit of help and was able to contact his uncle to come pick him up from New York.”

That is a typical story that Mr. Emmanuel hears all the time. He said he’s doing his best to find rehabilitation for such cases.

“Instances like that happen because the homeless people, they’re not from here, so they can’t get state services, and the only way we really know that they need help is because they come into the program at night or give us a call.

“In instances like that we want to make sure we not only want to help them, but we focus on them. A lot of times, in instances like that kid, if he doesn’t have an uncle to come and pick him up, he ends up becoming a resident without an ID, without Social Security, without any help, without family and he ends up living in a tent city somewhere around the city — sometimes some individuals fall through the cracks.”

It is those cracks that Mr. Emmanuel and his army of volunteers are working tirelessly every day at sealing up.

Code Purple Kent

Donations of food, clothing and water for Code Purple Kent County can be dropped off at Hopes and Dreams at 1235 E. Division St. in Dover on Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.

To volunteer for a women and children sanctuary, visit https://www.signupgenius.com/go/8050b48aaa923aafb6-code1; for a men’s sanctuaries, https://www.signupgenius.com/go/8050b48aaa923aafb6-code2

The following are Code Purple locations in Kent County:

Centennial United Methodist Church (site for men)
44 E. Mt. Vernon St., Smyrna, DE 19977

April Mcelrath


People’s Church of Dover United Church of Christ (site for men)

46 S. Bradford St., Dover, DE 19904

Paul Hanebutt


Presbyterian Church of Dover (site for men)

54 S. State St., Dover, DE 19901

Jimmy Gray


Maranatha Life Changing Church (site for women and children)

1235 E. Division St., Dover, DE 19901

Sam Adam Beau Rutledge



Wyoming United Methodist Church (site for men)

216 Wyoming Mill Road, Dover, DE 19904

Melissa Mann




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