As the holidays continue, it is easy for families to get caught up in the whirlwind that is a season of celebrations, but for many this only includes shopping for Christmas presents and attending holiday parties. Unfortunately, with the added stress and busy schedules, some things are left unnoticed and forgotten. Seldom seen or brought up in conversation around the dinner table are those individuals and families that will be homeless this winter season.
A partnership between the Kent County Levy Court and the Dover Interfaith’s Mission has develop a program that can help homeless families and individuals this winter when the temperatures reach freezing. Beginning on November 14, several Code Purple sanctuaries started receiving homeless individuals, giving them a place place to sleep and something to eat when the temperature outside reached below 32 degrees. In an outreach effort to help more communities in Kent County, the partnership has now reached out to organizations in the city of Milford.
The Milford Community Center, located on NE Front Street, has begun working with local and State officials to provide a Code Purple Sanctuary for local homeless. Pastor Richie Portalatin and Milford Community Center Executive Director Lisa Davis are preparing the building to accept up to 15 homeless individuals on nights when the outside temperature is freezing. For Pastor Portalatin the difficulties of being homeless are something that he has experienced firsthand. He states that his wife and him were both homeless before he decided to receive help. Now running the non-profit organization Hearts Unlimited for six years in the Greater Milford Area, he feels that it is his mission to expend any resource he can to help those living on the streets.
“Jesus died with passion to love all of us, not just those that have,” said Pastor Portalatin. “There are many homeless people that have not experienced any love in their lives. When you share love people can improve.”
Davis, who has a background in social services, states that the Code Purple Sanctuary will supply a warm place for up to 15 homeless individuals to sleep. They will be received at 7pm on the nights when temperatures are freezing and be given a warm meal. In the morning families and individuals will be given breakfast and will leave the sanctuary at 7am.
In addition the Milford Community Center is planning to give homeless families and individuals backpacks to take with them during the day. Eli Valenzuela, President of First State Manufacturing in Milford, has offered to sew up to 300 cold survival backpacks for the local Code Purple program. The backpacks will be stocked with toiletries, socks and hand-warmers, hot chocolate packs, canned ready-to-eat foods and other supplies they may need. Davis is currently reaching out to community members and asking for help with these items and encouraging other faith-based organizations to get involved.
While staying at the Milford Community Center Pastor Portalatin says that he and other volunteers will also lend an empathetic ear and talk with individuals about their challenges.
“There are many underlying factors behind why someone is homeless,” said Davis. “We will do what we can with our resources or lead them to the correct resources to get help. In the future, we would like Code Purple to be much more then just a place to sleep. We want it to be a place to help get them back on their feet.”
Hoping to begin Code Purple services as early as next week, the Milford Community Center is asking for volunteers to help with the overnight sanctuary or for donations including cots, blankets, clothing and food. Those interested in lending a helping hand can contact Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 302-725-0770.
“The whole purpose of the community center is to care for people, the entire community,” said Davis. “There is a need and we have the space.”