Pastor Richie Portalatin and the Milford Community Center are preparing to open their doors on freezing nights for the second year of Code Purple in the city.
Pastor Richie Portalatin of the Milford Multi-Cultural Church knows all about what it’s like to be homeless. He and his wife, Mayra, once went a few months without a home.
So getting a Code Purple shelter started last winter at the Milford Community Center was a huge priority. Portalatin’s church shares a building with the community center at 105 NE Front Street.
“Just to feel it, just the feeling of being homeless … it’s enough … just a day out in the cold,” Portalatin said.
Looking back at that first year of having a Code Purple sanctuary in Milford, he said the numbers speak for themselves.
The shelter held people on 61 nights when the temperature or wind chill dropped below 32 degrees between December and March. That included 33 different women, 24 different children and 12 different men.
“The first year was awesome,” Portalatin said. “I think we had over 80 people total take advantage of our Code Purple shelter.”
Rebecca Martin, the director for Code Purple Kent County, praised Portalatin for his willingness to open his doors.
“Last year’s first year of Code Purple in Milford went fantastic,” Martin said. “I’ve never seen a sanctuary that is willing to open its doors so freely as Milford with Pastor Richie. I must say that he is a very caring, heartwarming person.”
Martin added that she is hoping to open another Code Purple sanctuary in Milford soon and another one in Harrington. For now, the Milford Community Center remains the only spot.
On any night that Kent County has declared cold enough to go to Code Purple, the lights in front of the community center and the Milford State Services Center have purple bulbs to signify the center is open for shelter.
The doors at the community center will open at 6:30 on frigid evenings and volunteers serve dinner to their guests at around 7 p.m. The guests leave at 7 the following morning after having breakfast. Meals are organized by Deacon Dorothy Vuono, from Circle of Light Inc.
Portalatin said the Milford shelter stays in regular contact with the staff at Code Purple Kent County in Dover.
“We’re all in communication through emails with the codes and who’s sending [the homeless people],” said Portalatin. “The Milford Police Department has been helping us which has been really cool, getting [homeless people] off the streets.
“Last year was very successful and I’ve heard that the other Code Purple shelters were successful as well.”
Although the Milford shelter is for women and children, men seeking sanctuary are not turned away. It can host as many as 15 women and children per night.
The sanctuary in Milford needs at least seven volunteers for the upcoming winter, including two or three people to stay overnight when the shelter is open, one in the evening to answer the phones and two people, one in the evening and one in the morning, to serve food.
Portalatin stressed that the Code Purple shelters all depend on donations and volunteers to help. They are always in need of winter clothing, coats, hats, scarves, gloves, tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, food and water.
To help, Coastal Championship Wrestling will host a “Thanksgiving Throwdown” pro wrestling card at the Milford Community Center, Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m., and a 50/50 raffle to benefit the Code Purple shelter.
“Bless them for their assistance in helping us help out families in need,” Portalatin said.
Anyone offering help can call 725-0770 or email email@example.com.