Freezing cold heats up demand at local shelters

DOVER — With frigid temperatures not expected to climb anytime soon community leaders have increased capacity at area shelters to provide sanctuary for the homeless.

Rebecca Martin, director of Code Purple Kent County, said that for the past several nights, the shelters in Dover alone have been averaging around 57 to 60 people a night — which is very high.

“It’s a little crazy,” she said. “Our sanctuaries are filled up right now. I expect that our Code Purple sanctuaries will be open for the next two weeks straight with the frigid weather. I know that I can’t wait for spring.”

And there isn’t any relief in sight.

The National Weather Service has posted a hazardous weather outlook in effect though Thursday and the highest temperatures not coming until Wednesday, according to its Friday afternoon forecast.

“Arctic air and bitter cold wind chills are expected for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday,” the advisory said, with lows expected to be 11 degrees Sunday night and 12 degrees Monday night.

Jeanine Kleimo, chairwoman of the Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing, said Friday morning the nonprofit agency has permission from officials to increase their transitional shelter housing by five additional men during extreme weather situations and those in need have taken advantage.

“We have had five extra men nightly for the past three weeks,” she said.

Ms. Martin said the city has approved some locations to open their doors for sanctuary on an emergency basis since the shelters were full and Kent County provided more cots and bedding.

Ms. Kleimo said the city and the state fire marshal’s office granted permission to allow Dover Interfaith’s Resource Center to house up to 10 people if needed.

“Local officials want to keep everyone safe and are helping us to help them,” said Ms. Kleimo, who added that the police often deliver homeless individuals found on the street late at night.

“We also take in those men brought by local law enforcement officers who kindly don’t want to see them out in the cold all night. Such individuals typically miss the chance to go into Code Purple sites, as these are likely to be full by the time the police find someone seeking shelter outdoors,” she said.

Code Purple shelters are locations that generally open overnight, from evening to early morning, when temperatures drop below 32 degrees. Sites often offer a hot meal as well as shelter from the cold.

To help provide respite when Code Purple locations are closed, the Interfaith’s Resource Center is available, Ms. Kleimo said. That facility operates from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and some Saturday mornings as a facility where people can access services and tools to get back on their feet.

One problem facing Code Purple Kent County is a lack of sanctuaries for women and children on Saturdays and Tuesdays.

Ms. Martin said if they can’t find a place for women and children in Dover that volunteers would transport them down to the Milford Community Center for shelter.

While Ms. Martin and Ms. Kleimo lauded the community’s generosity, both agreed help is always needed, from staffing sanctuaries to providing donations.

“The community is stepping up to help, the city of Dover has stepped up to help and Kent County has stepped up to help,” said Ms. Martin. “We’re getting it done. That’s the main thing is getting people inside, off the streets and out of the cold.”

Ms. Kleimo added, “Demand is always greater than what we can supply. It is a sad but normal daily occurrence for us to have to turn people away.

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

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