by Terry Rogers
Code Purple organizers are planning for the cold winter months by holding volunteer training and requesting donations that can be used in their shelters. Nikki Gonzalez, Executive Director of Code Purple Sussex County, explained that the training is designed to educate volunteers on what Code Purple actually provides.
“We go over our beliefs about anyone experiencing homelessness,” Gonzalez said. “We explain what we expect volunteers to do and not to do. We also educate them on an overview of the different aspects of homelessness and who experiences homelessness, also providing statistics. We teach a basic overview of trauma, trauma informed care and de-escalation tips. We go over what the average night looks like from intake until the morning when they leave. We go over the boundaries that we expect the guests to follow and the procedures we have in place. We try to alleviate any fears that come inside someone’s head when they are not sure about helping us.”
Code Purple provides food, shelter, toiletries, clothing, fellowship and safety for the night. Some shelters provide showers as well as laundry facilities. All shelters offer the guests resources that allow them to reach out for help if they are ready to take those steps. Code Purple shelters open when the temperature drops below 32 degrees before December 15th or after March 15th. The shelters are open regardless of temperatures between December 15 and March 15.
“Code Purple is entering its fifth winter,” Gonzalez said. “We have had four successful winters of helping, on average, 150 to 200 people per winter. We started with just one shelter for men and one for women, but now have eight available in various towns. We started at a grassroots level because we saw the ever-increasing need for people to be helped during our freezing winter months. There are only two year-round shelters in Sussex that hold roughly 15 people during the freezing winter months.”
The shelters are entirely staffed and run by volunteers that donate their time and talent to help less fortunate people in the winter. In addition, items that are given to those at the shelter, including a hot meal, are donated by businesses and individuals. Gonzalez explained that since the season has just begun, Code Purple needs all types of donations, including cans of food with pop-tops, pop-tarts, soft cereal or oatmeal bars, gallon bags, fruit and applesauce cups and more that are given to guests in to-go bags. The shelters need items like frozen microwavable meals, large containers of coffee, sugar and powdered creamer along with other items that the guests can use when they are in the shelter. Code Purple also collects what they call mercy items.
“Mercy items include things like socks that are new in the package,” Gonzalez said. “Baby powder or foot powders and deodorant in trial sizes, razors, washcloths and towels along with tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, gloves, hand and feet warmer packets. We also could use long johns, long underwear, underwear and t-shirts.”
A list of Code Purple shelters along with other shelters that are not affiliated with Code Purple can be found at https://codepurplesussexcounty.com. Although the training sessions have been completed, Gonzalez suggests that anyone who wants to volunteer, they can get on-the-job training at a shelter where they will be paired with an experienced volunteer. There is paperwork that must be completed but it can be done online at the Code Purple website. Once it is completed online, it is emailed directly to Code Purple. For more information, call 302-519-0024.