St. Jude answers call of homeless

Need for women’s shelter, solutions to time gap are issues
March 24, 2023

Two days after the Lewes-Rehoboth Beach Code Purple site closed, volunteers and supporters gathered March 17 for breakfast to celebrate the success of the first-year program at St. Jude the Apostle Church.

The Sussex County Code Purple sites, coordinated by Love in the Name of Christ, aka Love INC, of Mid-Delmarva in Seaford, are open Dec. 1 through March 15. This was the first year for the St. Jude men’s site. Already, organizers are planning for next season and exploring ways to open a women’s shelter.

Mike Agnew, the driving force and site coordinator, said many of the homeless men showed up every one of the 105 nights the shelter was operating. He said as the men left March 15, they moved into tents in two wooded locations near Route 1 between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. “We all pray these guys are safe, and hopefully they will get settled,” Agnew said.

Agnew said many of the men had jobs but struggled with transportation and housing issues. He said while his group has several short-term goals, the ultimate long-term goal is to address affordable housing, the most pressing issue leading to homelessness in this area.

“The state has been underinvesting in affordable housing for years. With the explosion of growth in Sussex, and rising costs and inflation, it's no wonder we are lacking thousands of units of affordable housing in Sussex County,” said Sen. Russ Huxtable, D-Lewes.

The good news, he said, is that the state has budgeted unprecedented funding to provide new affordable housing and to maintain the current stock of housing. “The state is making a historic investment this year. Now it's just one time. I will need your help to make it happen every year,” Huxtable said.

Volunteers support shelter

“Our volunteers were moved emotionally and spiritually by the relationships they had here,” Agnew said. “And their perspectives were changed.”

During the appreciation breakfast, Agnew heaped praise on the 85 volunteers who served as intake workers, washed laundry, prepared food, drove the shelter's bus and were overnight hosts.

Agnew said the bus, donated by DART, was mission-critical to the success of the shelter. He said every night the bus picked up men in the Walmart parking lot at 8:30 p.m., and then took them to the Community Resource Center day program in Rehoboth Beach every morning at 7:30 a.m. Tom Tulley drove the bus 72 days and Roman Kuzan drove it 45 days. He also provided pizza once a week to the shelter.

The shelter averaged 12 men per night and provided more than 1,200 microwavable meals and to-go bags, washed 1,300 pounds of laundry and totaled more than 2,500 miles on the bus route. Agnew said volunteer Dave Shook took on laundry duties, with help from Huxtable, and Ocean Suds II in Rehoboth donated the use of its machines.

Agnew said the shelter operations would not have been possible without a host of donations from various groups, including Bethel United Methodist Church in Lewes; Cape Henlopen High School; St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Lewes; St. Edmond Catholic Church, Rehoboth Beach; Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware, Lewes; and many other groups such as Girl Scouts and Mom's Club.

“We are still in awe of the generosity in this community,” he said.

Need for women's shelter

Agnew said among the issues needing attention are a women's homeless shelter and the four-hour time gap between when the Community Resource Center closes and the shelter is allowed to open.

“Because of the gap, the guys are out in the cold. There needs to be a place for them to go before the shelter opens,” he said.

Agnew said his group would reach out to other agencies and groups to see if a collaboration would be possible to create a women's shelter.

The Lewes shelter was for men only. The closest Code Purple shelter for women was in Milford.

“I will not stop until we have a women's shelter,” he said. “This is a priority this year.”

He said volunteers will also take a look at providing home-cooked meals when the shelter reopens in December.

Invited guests included Love INC’s Miguel Alban, executive director, and Gissela Cruz, office manager; Huxtable; Jo Allegro-Smith, Community Resource Center executive director; and Jim Martin, director of the Shepherd's Office in Georgetown, which provides meals and services to the homeless.

“You are transforming lives in Jesus' name,” Alban said. “You have been mobilized by the spirit of God. Through the passion of Mike you have showed them the love of Christ.”



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