Homeless women’s shelter to open in Cape Region

Lutheran Church of Our Savior opens doors to provide space, safety during winter months
December 12, 2023

Thanks to what St. Jude Code Purple site coordinator Mike Agnew called a series of miracles, the Cape Region now has a homeless women's shelter.

The news was made official following the church's Dec. 8 service.

The team at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church in Lewes has partnered with Lutheran Church of Our Savior on Bay Vista Drive outside Rehoboth Beach to provide a shelter for women.

The shelter at St. Jude only accepts men, and Agnew said he knew there was a need for a women's shelter in the area with the closest one in Milford.

“We know they are out there hidden in plain sight,” he said.

As cold temperatures and the Dec. 1 opening date for all Code Purple shelters neared, he said there was a sense of urgency.

He said he made a presentation on Code Purple to the women of the Village Improvement Association in Rehoboth Beach. They asked where homeless women go when it's cold. He said within three days of that meeting, one of last season's guests at St. Jude called him and said, “I have women standing right here.”

The wheels were already in motion with the commitment of the Lutheran Church of Our Savior to open a site in its fellowship hall.

Until the Rehoboth site is operational, women are being housed nightly at the Lewes Senior Activity Center.

Agnew said they ran into a roadblock when the fire marshal told them he couldn’t inspect the new shelter for at least 15 days. He contacted Sussex County Councilman Mark Schaeffer to see if he could help.

“Two hours later, I got a call from the governor’s office and it was taken care of almost immediately,” he said.

The new shelter site

On Dec. 6, St. Jude volunteers and Lutheran Church of Our Savior members attended a training session to make a plan for the new shelter.

John Strauss, who is helping to coordinate the Our Savior site, said the fellowship hall has restrooms and showers available with four hair dryers. In addition, the church has a washer and dryer.

Lutheran Church of Our Savior minister, Pastor Donald Schaefer, said the church is answering God's call by providing the shelter to those in need.

“This is what Jesus had in mind. We are more than delighted with this mission and to partner with you,” he told St. Jude volunteers attending the meeting.

Under the current plan, men and women will be picked up nightly by bus at 8:30 p.m. in the Walmart parking lot and transported to the St. Jude shelter. They will get checked in and eat dinner. The women will be bused to the Lutheran Church of Our Savior around 10 p.m.

The morning bus routine is still a work in progress, Agnew said. The bus, donated by DART, cannot seat all of the people from both shelters.

Last season, the men were bused to the Community Resource Center in Rehoboth Beach where they have a daytime shelter, can take showers, wash clothes and get a meal. The women can also go to the center.

Each woman will be assigned a duffel bag with bed linens. Reservations through the Code Purple system are required each night. The Code Purple program in Sussex County is coordinated by Love INC, based in Seaford.

Those attending a shelter can make a reservation that night for the next night.

All shelters have a maximum capacity of 14 guests and two overnight hosts. The St. Jude site averaged 12 men each night during the 2022-23 season.

Code Purple shelters are open seven nights a week Dec. 1 through March 15, which is 105 nights.



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