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Kent County poised to run short of winter shelter beds

The Dover church that houses Kent County's Code Purple shelter in its basement.
Paul Kiefer
Delaware Public Media
Kent County's Code Purple shelter may run out of space if Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing has to downsize this month.

As winter temperatures set in across Delaware, cold-weather shelters are opening their doors to provide overnight beds to people experiencing homelessness.

But service providers in Dover worry they may struggle to find beds for everyone in need this year. Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing, the capital’s largest year-round shelter, may lose its 34-bed space west of downtown this month.

Dover Interfaith Chair Jeanine Kleimo says her organization currently can’t afford to continue the lease, but are trying to reach an agreement with their landlord – the Downtown Dover Partnership – to remain past December.

“We are exploring the potential to extend our lease in our facility by a couple of months," she said. "That exploration includes both permission from the owner and the availability of financial resources to support such a plan.”

If Dover Interfaith can’t afford to extend its lease or its landlord doesn’t agree to an extension, Kleimo says they will move into a space with half as many beds, placing pressure on Kent County’s already overstretched Code Purple shelter to take in anyone displaced by the move.

In Sussex County, Code Purple shelters in Georgetown and Seaford that opened last week are already full, while Code Purple shelters in Milford and Lewes still have open beds.

Friendship House Executive Director Kim Eppehimer – whose organization will run New Castle County’s Code Purple shelters this year – says demand for shelters there still exists, but the Hope Center and Wilmington’s Sunday Breakfast Mission relieve some pressure on Code Purple.

“When you think about Code Purple, it’s the only county that has that shelter, so we should be the county that technically needs Code Purple less," she said "because there is a place people can go. We don’t have that in Kent and we don’t have that in Sussex.”

Code Purple in New Castle County only opens when temperatures drop below 20 degrees, meaning they may open less frequently than the shelters downstate. Eppehimer says they may be able to provide beds to people from Kent County at their space in Middletown, but their shelters require pre-registration.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.