A Code Purple nighttime homeless shelter at the former Delaware State Police Troop 7 barracks along Route 1 near Lewes could be open early next week just as a blast of freezing weather is expected.
House Speaker Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, and Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, gathered Jan. 16 at the building with Code Purple, Love Inc. of Mid-Delmarva, Immanuel Shelter and other volunteers to make the announcement that state officials have approved the use of the vacant building for a temporary shelter for this winter only.
“This is a good use of this building,” Schwartzkopf said. “It's not the Taj Mahal, but it is dry and warm and has water and showers. We've had to overcome a lot of obstacles to make this happen.”
Schwartzkopf said the Commission on State Surplus of Real Property met Jan. 15 and unanimously approved the use of the building. State police relocated from the facility in mid-December to new barracks on Mulberry Knoll Road near Lewes.
It was the efforts of Schwartzkopf and Lopez, working behind the scenes at the state level and with Love Inc., coordinators of Code Purple Sussex County, who cut through red tape to get permission to use the building. There are no other Code Purple shelters in the Cape Region.
The legislators said they will lead an effort to get a permanent shelter up and running for next winter.
“This is the most important campaign we've ever run,” Lopez said. “Pete's birthday was yesterday, and this is a gift he's shared with all of us. For 35 years, police working out of this building helped keep constituents safe, and now with this use, constituents will be sheltered.”
Nikki Gonzalez, executive director of Code Purple Sussex County, said volunteers will have a work day in the building Monday, Jan. 20, to get it ready as a shelter. “As soon as everything is done, we will be open,” she said, possibly as early as Tuesday, Jan. 21.
She said they will push to get it open with extreme weather in next week's forecast. The shelter for men and women will operate nightly starting at 7 p.m. through Sunday, March 15. She said the shelter can accommodate up to 16 people.
Gonzalez said each Code Purple site is run by volunteers, including intake workers and overnight monitors. She said volunteers to prepare dinners will also be needed. “We will need all hands on deck,” she said.
“If you feel called to help, you are welcome,” said Susan Kent, executive director of Love Inc., which operates eight other shelters in Sussex County.
Don Peterson, interim president of Immanuel Shelter, said the organization is thrilled to work with Code Purple to provide as much assistance as possible. Immanuel is providing nightly rooms and dinners for up to 20 homeless people at motels in the Route 1 corridor.
Call Gonzalez at 302-519-0024 to volunteer or get more information.
Volunteer registration forms are available on the website at codepurplesussexcounty.com.