The cold snap that put the First State in a deep freeze this week drew a Code Purple declaration.
But in Kent and Sussex counties, it has been business as usual.
Even with an ongoing, desperate need for volunteers, Code Purple’s shelters have been welcoming guests seeking overnight refuge for more than month.
“So for us, it’s not really a change because we are open anyway. We’ve been active every night since Dec. 1,” said Code Purple Sussex County executive director Nikki Gonzalez. “And we will be active every night, no matter what, through March 15. So it doesn’t put us into a tizzy. We’re already in a tizzy because we don’t have the volunteers.”
With temperatures dropping below 20 overnight Tuesday, Code Purple Kent County has a pair of emergency shelters open in Dover, at 46 S. Bradford St. for men and at 1207 E. Division St. for women and children.
Ennio Emmanuel, director of the Kent County organization, said that if places like the Dover Mall, day shelters or the Dover Public Library are closed due to weather, Code Purple facilities will remain open during the day to help, too.
“We are currently raising funds to purchase a facility that can help with daytime activities,” he said. “At the moment, we rent our sheltering space, but it is for temporary daily use. Our current offices are not large enough to host people in daytime, but we do dream of being able to do that, and our volunteers are excited to grow, as well.
“We also have showers, laundry, food and many other supplies available when people are staying with us.”
Mr. Emmanuel added that his nonprofit is always looking for volunteers and food and clothing contributions. For more information, visit here.
Empowered by Love INC, Code Purple’s Sussex division has six shelters throughout the area. Thus far, capacity has not been an issue.
“We’ve never actually hit capacity. We have people sign up, 14, and two overnight volunteers,” said Ms. Gonzalez. “Honestly, there is always no-shows. There is always (someone who) didn’t make it there that night. So it really has not been a problem.”
Shelters in Sussex welcome guests overnight, not during the day. However, ACE Peer Resource Centers in Georgetown and Seaford and Brandywine Counseling & Community Services in Milford are open for some portion of the day, Ms. Gonzalez said.
“During the day, they do multiple different things. They might go to a store. They might have a friend that says you can stay … because it’s cold, but you can’t … sleep here; you can’t keep your things here,” she added.
Ms. Gonzalez reiterated the initiative’s greatest challenge: a shortage of volunteers, especially at the shelters in Seaford and Lewes.
“That’s where we are struggling the most,”’ she noted. “There is a volunteer that just spent the last three out of four nights at the shelter. The only reason it wasn’t four nights is because another volunteer felt bad for them and decided to take two nights themselves this week.
“It is a lot. My volunteers, they get tired. And we don’t have the easiest people to deal with all the time. Which is fine. We know what we are getting into.”
To learn more about volunteering with Code Purple Sussex County, call 302-519-0024.
Staff writer Mike Finney contributed to this story.