Former Troop 7 barracks eyed as Code Purple homeless shelter

LEWES — The former barracks home of Delaware State Police Troop 7 near Lewes will likely have a new use soon: a temporary shelter for the homeless during sub-freezing weather.

With final state blessing anticipated this week, the barracks structure at 18006 Coastal Highway will be utilized as a homeless shelter through Love INC of Mid-Delmarva and its Code Purple Sussex County initiative to fill a void in eastern Sussex.

The state surplus committee is to vote Wednesday on the temporary use of the 35-year-old Troop 7 facility, according to State Sen. Ernie Lopez. (The Delaware State Police moved their operations from the Del. 1 site to a new building on Mulberry Knoll Road off Route 24 on Dec. 18.)

That would enable the state to enter into a short-term lease agreement with Love INC for the operation of the shelter temporarily through April 1 on Code Purple evenings — on evenings below 32 degrees.

Sen. Lopez said an affirmative vote is expected.

Susan Kent, Love INC director, called it “amazing news and a giant leap toward the beginnings of refuge for the Cape regions homeless neighbors.”

Sen. Lopez, a Republican from Lewes, and Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, a Democrat from Rehoboth, together have facilitated the effort, which began in December with word that a previous cold-weather shelter in the Rehoboth area was not opening this season.

“The Faith United Methodist Church had a building off Route 1 in Rehoboth, which was coordinated by Immanuel Shelter. And there were no agreed upon terms for this season,” said Sen. Lopez. “It came down to the fact that we did not want to have constituents who could not find housing to be unable to find shelter.

“We began to put things in motion in working with the state budget office, and Love INC of Mid-Delmarva, the providers of Code Purple, to see if we could use it as a temporary facility,” Sen. Lopez said. “Since that time, Love INC has agreed to move forward. Also, the state is moving forward.”

A fire marshal tour last week made minor recommendations.

Ms. Kent said her organization was prepared to coordinate the new location as it does its existing eight shelters in Sussex.

Those shelters, open Dec. 1 through March 15, 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).

While those eight sites are open “regardless of temperature,” the Troop 7 barracks would only be open on sub-freezing nights.
Sen. Lopez said, “There is no other location in the state of Delaware where there is a state-owned facility being used as a homeless shelter. For the state, they were very ambivalent to more forward for this, particularly in the fact that Troop 7 has officially just been vacated (Friday).”

The state and Love INC have reached an agreement. Approval by the state surplus committee will move the initiative to the volunteer stage.

“After that, it really comes down to Love INC. stepping forward alongside those of us in state government and really calling out the volunteers,” said Sen. Lopez. “I’m sure that there will need to be a slight rehab of the building, which we will again ask our volunteer community to step forward. Then we can quickly open the building up as a shelter.”

Sen. Lopez said he and Rep. Schwartzkopf believe the community will respond.

He said the quick turnaround was acknowledged by Michael Jackson, director of Office of Management & Budget. According to Sen. Lopez, Mr. Jackson noted they have “done something in three weeks that normally takes about a year.”

“We really felt it important to push through on this on a bipartisan basis,” said Sen. Lopez.

Needs, ways to support, help

Ms. Kent offered the following volunteer opportunities:

• Intake Workers: Two volunteers needed each night we are open. Shift is 6:45 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.;

• Community Dinners: Bring dinner at 6:45 p.m. ready to serve at 7 p.m.; stay for fellowship, clean up and out by 8:30 p.m. There are some groups who drop and go, that is acceptable, but Code Purple organizers encourage staying and helping. Community brings in dinner for 32 people — hot ready to go in disposable serving dishes. Often community dinner is done by small groups, churches, businesses, restaurants and a few individuals with culinary skills;

• Overnight Volunteers: Code Purple requires a minimum of one male and one female overnight volunteer. However, the request is for two men and two women each night. There are also shadow shifts available and perhaps some people don’t want to spend the night but can release an overnight volunteer at 5 a.m. so they can go to work. These helping partner volunteer spots are also available for supports. Shift is 8:30 p.m. until 8:30 a.m.;

• Reset Team Volunteers: Shift begins at 8:30 a.m. until 9 a.m.; duties include reset and restock and be assured all chores were done, temperatures are set correctly, and building is secured;

• Laundry Volunteers: Laundry will be a full time volunteer spot for a group or team of people. Volunteers can work on their own timeline but must accomplish the wash to have fresh linens when we rotate the totes and bedding.

Volunteer, additional information

Questions and ways anyone wishes to help may be communicated by calling the Code Purple Sussex County hotline 302-519-0024 or Love INC 302-629-7050, by emailing Nikki Gonzalez (Code Purple Sussex County Director) at nikkigonzalez2@gmail.com or Susan Kent at loveincofmiddelmarva@gmail.com.

Interested people may also visit the CPSC website at: codepurplesussexcounty.com for the most recent posts and information, and to register to volunteer. Volunteer applications are found on the website and the Lewes/Rehoboth sign up calendar will be open the moment the official green light is given.