When the forecasted temperatures earlier this week dropped below 20 degrees, Newark Empowerment Center coordinator Richard Waibel received a call from the center’s director — it was time to organize the next three nights of the winter nighttime sanctuary program, Code Purple.
From here it was Waibel’s job to notify The Hudson Center, Newark Police, Newark Free Library, the Newark Emergency Center, Hope Dining Room, UD Public Safety and the next Code Purple host location that shelter would be provided for Newark’s homeless on the frigid nights approaching.
Wednesday marked the ninth night for the program this winter.
“It’s a sanctuary, not a shelter, so most locations have air mattresses and they pass out blankets,” Waibel said. “A professional meets with them in the morning, usually provides them with a go-bag, they have a little bit of coffee and pastry or something in the morning and then they’re encouraged to do something better.”
Newark’s Code Purple locations rotate between eight churches in the area and are open from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. whenever the temperature is 20 degrees or lower. On an average night, 18 homeless people take advantage of the Code Purple location.
Keeping with the Newark Empowerment Center’s motto, “A hand up, not a hand out,” people who take shelter at Code Purple locations are often given supplies of food and hygiene products, but are also encouraged to take advantage of resources at the center in order to seek medical assistance, acquire personal identification, apply for jobs and find housing.
Danny Denn, one of the men staying at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Tuesday, said he is currently using such resources to obtain a free phone that will allow him to apply for jobs.
“I’m trying to get off these streets,” Denn said. “I’m not happy out here. I have a lot of friends and these are all nice people and God bless them.
“If I had a place, I’d let them come and stay from time to time and help them out too, but you know, I’ve got to get off the streets to do so. I can’t live like this.”
Another man staying at St. Paul’s was Harry Warner, a former carpenter currently recovering from a car accident. Warner said he was one of Newark Empowerment Center’s first clients.
“They used to call me the mayor of the homeless,” Warner said. “I help people out as much as I can. I’ve sent so many people to the Empowerment Center. You can’t start something like that and have no clients. So I was sending everybody I ran into that needed help over there.”
The Empowerment Center is based out of Newark United Methodist Church on Main Street and is open weekday afternoons to assist the homeless. On cold nights, it coordinates the Code Purple locations.
Heather Galloway and her 9-year-old son Nevin were two of approximately 20 volunteers working at the Code Purple shelter at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Tuesday night. Other members of the congregation also helped by contributing food and other donations.
“The soup tonight was actually made by the youth group,” Galloway said. “We had them bring in all the cans and stuff and we made it and froze it. So everybody kind of chips in in different ways.”
The Empowerment Center also gets support from local businesses such as Amalfi Pizza and Italian Eatery, which donates its leftovers to be distributed during center hours on Tuesdays and Village Laundromat, which recently volunteered to launder all of the blankets used for Code Purple nights.
Additionally, the program is funded by about 20 faith groups in the area, including not only churches but synagogues and temples.
“It’s just an opportunity to help people who are in a bad situation,” Galloway said.