For the past decade, Sussex County’s first Code Purple shelter, Immanuel Shelter, has provided winter refuge for the Cape Region’s homeless men and women. However, following a change in management structure, beginning this year, the shelter on Oyster House Road outside of Rehoboth Beach will no longer provide services for men.
In a prepared statement Dec. 5, Immanuel Shelter President Janet Idema said the shelter has shifted its focus this season toward renovating its Belltown church property into a permanent emergency shelter. The Oyster House Road shelter will open to women and children Sunday, Dec. 15, under the watch of Love INC’s Code Purple Sussex County.
“Immanuel will continue to work to secure and provide the financial support for the shelter and continue with much needed fundraising and planning for the development of the Belltown Church property,” said Idema, adding the shelter is developing a strategy to transport men to other designated Code Purple sites.
Immanuel Shelter was founded in 2010. In 2018, the shelter purchased the former John Wesley United Methodist Church building in Belltown. In February, Delaware Supreme Court Justice Gary Traynor affirmed a Superior Court decision denying the operation of a homeless shelter at the site.
During the shelter’s annual luncheon in May, Idema said the shelter has helped more than 1,200 people and provided more than 35,000 meals in the past decade.During a luncheon in May, Idema estimated the annual budget to be close to $175,000.
Cherry Barranco, a former shelter volunteer, said she is concerned about the change. She said she’s concerned how a homeless man is supposed to get to Georgetown or Bethany without transportation.
“Last year, we had one client walk to Rehoboth from Georgetown,” Barranco said. “I am sure the many other volunteers who contributed meals, made soup (we had a wonderful soup lady) are also questioning this situation. Where is our compassion, prisoners in correctional institutes get three squares a day, animals at the SPCA are fed and taken care of. Why not our homeless men?”
The Lewes-Rehoboth Association of Churches counts 18 churches as partners and provides monetary support to six helping agencies, including Immanuel Shelter.
LRAC President Mary Makowski said Dec. 5 the association is well aware of the change at Immanuel Shelter. She said LRAC has been working with Immanuel Shelter closely during this transition period.
“It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s the best we can do for right now,” said Makowski. “We will get the men to a shelter that can take them.”
During a forum on homelessness in April, Rachel Stucker, assistant director of Housing Alliance Delaware, said on any given night in Delaware, about 1,000 people are homeless, which means they are sleeping on the streets or in tents, cars, sheds or shelters. About 130 people in Sussex County are homeless each night.
In all, said Stucker, as many as 3,500 people are homeless each year in Delaware.
Idema said there’s more information about the operating organization of Cold Purple Sussex County at codepurplesussexcounty.com. She said Immanuel Shelter can be contacted at 1-888-634-9992.