Officials with Epworth United Methodist Church and the Immanuel shelter have worked out an arrangement that will keep the shelter open during freezing cold night during what has turned into a bitterly cold winter.
The shelter will open at Epworth when the temperature drops to 32 degrees or below.
The shelter at the church was expected to be open three days a week, Friday through Sunday, from January to April. Epworth was designated as a Code Purple location for Kent and Sussex counties, meaning homeless people can go there for relief when the temperature drops to 20 degrees or when the wind chill takes the temperature to 20 degrees.
However, a misunderstanding arose between the church and shelter organizers, who wanted to open when the temperature went below 32 degrees.
The Rev. Vicky Starnes said the extreme cold in December and into January caused the shelter to become a seven-day a week operation. Starnes said the situation has taken a heavy load on the facility and the shelter’s volunteers; the shelter draws 15 to 25 people from the Cape Region every night.
Church leaders held a closed-door meeting Feb. 3 with shelter volunteers and church members on what could be done to keep a seven-day-a-week shelter going, but Starnes did not say what solutions were being considered.
Shelter director Nan Ruhl said the two sides were able to work out an arrangement allowing the shelter to open when it is 32 degrees or less. She said there’s no definite policy regarding Code Purple; it’s triggered by different temperatures throughout the state.
Ruhl said the Feb. 3 meeting was very positive, and she was optimistic the shelter would be open for the rest of the winter. Steve Elkins of CAMP Rehoboth, who attended the meeting, also said the meeting was positive and that he was excited at the potential solutions.
"It was resolved, and that's the important thing," Ruhl said.