‘Tis the season for Code Purple to get prepared


DOVER — Delaware hasn’t been hit yet with a serious cold spell this fall, but chances are that one — complete with freezing temperatures — will arrive in the not-so-distant future.

That’s why Becky Martin, director of Code Purple Kent County, has been scrambling in recent weeks in an effort to find volunteers to help staff the county’s eight Code Purple sanctuaries for the homeless this winter.

Code Purple shelters will open their doors from Dec. 1 until March 31 when temperatures fall to 32 degrees or below overnight.

Sanctuaries are in place this year at Smyrna Centennial Church, along with locations in Dover at Mount Carmel Church, Presbyterian Church, People’s Church, Wesley Church, Christ Church, and others at Wyoming Methodist Church and Milford Community Church.

They are only open at night and the homeless are provided with a warm meal, a place to sleep and a hot breakfast the following morning.

“We are in the middle of making our preparations for our Code Purple season right now,” Ms. Martin said. “Right now, our main issue is trying to find enough volunteers willing to staff the sanctuaries. We are trying to get volunteers to help us overnight (from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m.).

“For some reason, we are very shorthanded this season and definitely need all of the help that we can get. The more the merrier, because it’s overnight and we never know how many volunteers we’ll get.”

Code Purple Kent County will host a meeting to try and attract those volunteers on Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Hopes and Dreams Peer Resource Center at 621 W. Division Street.

Code Purple Kent County finds a partner

Tricia Hill took over as director of the Hopes and Dreams facility on West Division Street in August and has been working hand-in-hand with Code Purple Kent County ever since.

“It’s been absolutely wonderful,” she said. “They have been great for us and very helpful in getting things moving and getting started.

“Actually, we’re going to be opening our resource center at 8 a.m. on the days that the Code Purple sanctuaries let out and the homeless people will be able to spend the day inside of our facilities.”

That, Ms. Martin said, is going to be a huge benefit to the homeless.

“I can’t say enough good things about (Hopes and Dreams),” she said. “We didn’t have a resource center that was open from 8:30 until 4:30 Monday through Friday and sometimes it can be colder during the day than it is at night.

“Hopes and Dreams is arranging on opening its doors when our sanctuaries are closed.”

In addition, Hopes and Dreams has a garage storage facility that is holding the majority of Code Purple Kent County’s supplies and donations that it has received in anticipation of the upcoming winter season.

“We’ve been accepting items for Code Purple,” Ms. Hill said. “We’ve got a whole garage that we’ve set up as a clothing closet and blankets, personal items and all of those things are available for people to come and get.

“We’re getting a lot of donations and getting a lot of people coming in who are in need, so it’s been going very well. We’re able to distribute, because people are here. We’re definitely able to distribute items and it’s been a good partnership with Code Purple.”

Code Purple remains important

It is estimated that between 300 and 400 adults in the Greater Dover area are homeless, including those residing in shelters, in tents, in Code Purple sanctuaries and moving from space in the home of one friend to another.

Code Purple is a statewide project that helps people who are homeless find a place of shelter when weather conditions become too dangerous for individuals or families to remain outside.

So when the temperatures reach 32 degrees or below, the sanctuaries will turn on purple-colored lights outside to let the public know they are open.

The Code Purple sanctuaries are important because not all homeless persons choose to live in housing.

This will be the fifth year of Code Purple in Kent County. Two years ago, the program hosted an average of around 80 people each night a Code Purple was issued, according to Martin.

However, that number dropped somewhat last winter due to restrictions that were imposed on some of the sanctuaries in the city of Dover, specifically, operating shelters without required fire suppression sprinkler systems installed.

Ms. Martin expects that to change this year.

“We believe we have that all worked out,” she said. “The city did a memo of understanding for Code Purple, so now our sanctuaries will be able to take more people.

“We’ll make sure everything is safe for our guests and will abide by all of the fire regulations that we’ve agreed to. We just won’t have to jump through as many hoops now in order to operate successfully.”

Donations always welcome

Ms. Martin stressed the most important thing a person can donate to Kent County Code Purple right now is time — volunteers willing to watch over one of the shelters overnight.

“We’re very short-handed for women right now,” she said. “We don’t have enough volunteers to take care of women Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.”

The nonprofit organization also needs some snack foods, such as cupcakes, cookies, pop tarts, peanut butter crackers and popcorn.

Ms. Martin said Kent County Code Purple is currently making up an inventory list from the churches as it prepares to send out a wish list in the near future.

“We’re actually doing pretty well on most of the items we were seeking but we’re still going to need some meals — enough to feed 25 people and can be frozen,” she said. “We are looking for dinners and breakfasts.”

For more information on making donations or volunteering for Code Purple Kent County, call 302-339-0123 or 302-270-2177, or visit its website at www.codepurplekentcounty.com.


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