As weather cools, Code Purple activities heat up

Kent County Code Purple recently bought this van to pick up homeless people for sanctuaries when the temperatures or wind chills drop below 32 degrees this winter. Fittingly, they painted it purple. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Kent County Code Purple recently bought this van to pick up homeless people for sanctuaries when the temperatures or wind chills drop below 32 degrees this winter. Fittingly, they painted it purple. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — Cooler temperatures made their way into Dover over the weekend, which put Rebecca Martin on high alert.

Ms. Martin, the director of Code Purple in Kent County, can feel time quickly running out as she and her staff gear up for another winter in Dover.

That means lining up facilities to house the area’s homeless population on freezing nights, stocking up on food supplies, getting inflatable beds in order, stockpiling toiletries and a host of other last-minute chores.

“We are getting ready. All of the churches that are participating will all be ready to open Dec. 1,” Ms. Martin said. “Whenever it reaches 32 degrees or below the doors will open to provide shelter for the homeless overnight.

“We try to forecast out at least a week in advance of what the temperatures are expected to be.”

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

Code Purple sanctuaries open when the temperature or wind chill drops below 32 degrees. They are only open at night and the homeless are provided a warm meal, a place to sleep and a hot breakfast the following morning. They then must leave and find a place to go until the sanctuary opens again.

There are overnight sanctuaries in place this year at Wyoming United Methodist Church and Christ, Dover Presbyterian, Wesley United Methodist and Trinity Wesleyan churches in Dover, Smyrna Centennial Church and the Milford Community Church.

The organization is also hoping to add People’s Church of Dover and is striving to open a first Code Purple shelter in Harrington for this winter.

“With the new detox center [Connections Withdrawal Management Center] being located in Harrington we realize it’s a 72-hour facility, so our concern is that people leaving detox center might not have a place to stay when they are released,” Ms. Martin said.

When it comes to receiving donations, Ms. Martin says she cannot help but be blown away sometimes by the generosity of others.

“A lady recently donated 50 backpacks filled with toiletries and food, and when you are homeless, a backpack is your livelihood,” she said.

She said the woman had a daughter who was a nurse at Christina Hospital and who died of drug addiction. She left two children behind. The family wanted to do something in her memory.

They also donated 35 sleeping bags and 50 McDonald’s food cards to the Code Purple facility and plan to also bring in around 250 toys.

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 know for sure that we’re going to need inflatables for people to sleep on and we’re also going to need some meals — enough to feed 15 people,” she said. “We are looking for dinners and breakfasts.”

Ms. Martin said donations can be dropped off at the Code Purple House at 24 S. Bradford Street in Dover from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. every day except for Tuesday and Sunday.

Code Purple is also searching for volunteers to stay in sanctuaries overnight during the winter in shifts that last from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m.

Code Purple does have a couple of exciting additions for the upcoming cold season. It purchased a van and painted it purple and then a white van was recently donated to the organization by DART.

Code Purple volunteers will now be able to travel to remote areas and pick up homeless people who need shelter in the freezing temperatures.

The next big event for Code Purple will be “Christmas Giving Day” on Dec. 3 at the old Boys and Girls Club at 375 Simon Circle in Dover. Last year’s event attracted 750 people.

“The event is unbelievable,” Ms. Martin said. “We will have different stations set up offering clothing, toiletries, sleeping bags, toys, groceries and other things and then there will also be a hot lunch served.

“Santa Claus is going to be there and a photographer is there to take pictures for children and Santa. There will also be a resource hub and a mental health clinic there and we hope to also have a health clinic at this year’s event.”

One thing is for certain, time is moving fast for Code Purple. It never stands still — not even in the heat of summer.

“Under the Code Purple umbrella we also have Code In Need,” Ms. Martin said. “We can’t house people overnight during the spring, summer and fall, but make sure we have an appearance in the community to help them with clothing, tents and resources.

“The homeless community doesn’t go away just because it’s not winter.”

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

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