Code Backpack Helps Local Homeless

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Staff Report

bpThe reigning Miss Milford, Rebecca Gasperetti, hopes to lend a helping hand to those in need through her platform which she calls Homelessness Awareness and Prevention: Code Purple. Miss Gasperretti says that her goal for the year of her reign and beyond is to help those in need and encourage the youth as well as the rest of the community to do the same.

“Homelessness is a state-wide issue that can impact anyone. When I was in high school, my family and I came very close to foreclosure. If it weren’t for the help of our family and friends, I don’t know where we would be,” said Gasperetti. “I have chosen to tackle homelessness because having a friend, having the resources to reach out to for help makes the biggest difference.”

As the school year is coming to a close across Delaware, Gasperetti is encouraging families that consider throwing away backpacks and bags to get involved with a new program she designed, Code Backpack. The program takes the unwanted backpacks and bags and provides the homeless with a bundle of non-perishable food items, reusable water bottles and seasonal clothing. Working with local non-profit organizations including Code Purple and City of Milford officials, Gasperetti expects the program to be up and running by the summer.

“It is so important to help and support these individuals because we have to remember that they are human just like you and me,” she said. “I do understand that it is difficult to reach out to the homeless because we might not know what to do or how to help but, if we work together, I believe we can really turn this issue around.”

Homelessness is a complex housing issue that has many causes. According to the Homeless Planning Council of Delaware, there are an average of 1,200 people who are homeless on any given night and more than 6,000 who are homeless throughout the year. Of those who are considered homeless, 16 percent are considered chronically homeless, which means they have been homeless one year or longer and/or have had four or more episodes of homelessness in the past three years.

Ms. Gasperetti is working with Code Purple shelters and the Milford School District to connect with homeless individuals and families. Code Purple shelters, which are located throughout the state of Delaware, are not traditional shelters as they provide aid to the homeless on nights when the temperature is extremely low. In Milford, the Milford Community Center on NE Front St opens as a Code Purple Shelter during nights of extreme cold.

“As a community, we need to continue to provide resources and funding to the shelters in our area,” said Gasperetti. “Shelters run out of supplies very quickly and sometimes the resources they have are old and worn.”

In addition to meeting the immediate need, Gasperetti says that the communities around the state need to work together to come up with solutions. “A good short-term solution would be to refrain from throwing away clothing and items you do not use any more. Instead, donate them to a local shelter,” she said. “As for a longterm solution, we need places where our homeless community can stay during the day for food and shelter. We also need a place, other than the hospital, where these individuals can acquire the help they need from social workers, case workers, and doctors. A long-term facility.”

Mayor Bryan Shupe and Milford School District are partnering with Miss Milford in early June to involve local students, encouraging them to drop off their gently used backpacks during school hours. Each school in the district will display a drop off box during the month of June in their main lobby until the last day of school on Friday, June 10. Individuals and families that are interested in helping the Code Backpack program, can contact Gasperetti at rgasp@udel.edu.

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