This winter, the Zion United Church of Christ will be the site for Delaware’s “Warming Center” for homeless men.
Up to 15 men will be able to stay overnight in the church’s basement when the temperature dips below 20 degrees. However, the church will not be a permanent full-service shelter.
The decision comes after 10 months of meetings by a working group of city officials and heads of local non-profit organizations, They formed the group in response to concerns last winter about providing a warm place for chronically homeless men to stay on dangerously cold nights. More than 300 citizens expressed their opinions via an online petition and through social media.
“This is great. We had nothing when we started,” said Assistant City Manager Jackie Walker. “This is the first time anything like this has been done in Delaware.”
Brandon Feller, president of the United Way of Delaware County, said at the group’s wrap-up meeting Tuesday that a lot had been accomplished in recent weeks. He said members of the church, led by Pastor Jon Peterson, have accepted Zion Church as the location for the Warming Center. There will be improvements made to the church to accommodate the guests.
Based on weather forecasts, a point person from the church will decide whether to open the Warming Center. Advance notice will be provided via social media and by signs put up at the non-profits and other businesses.
The Warming Center will be staffed by trained volunteers and an off-duty Delaware police officer. Guests will be able to enter on nights of extreme cold from 8 to 10 p.m. The guests will be searched for weapons, drugs and alcohol. Possessions will be placed in lockers, and pets can sleep in crates provided by the church. Guests leaving the center after 10 p.m. will not be able to re-enter. If a guest has stayed the night, they will have to leave by 8 a.m. with all of their possessions. The guests will be provided with a “parting gift” that includes food items and water.
“No fighting, arguing, swearing, cursing or destruction of property is acceptable,” states a brochure of proposed procedures for the center. “Guests deemed a safety risk will be asked leave the Warming Center for the night.”
Feller said the Warming Center will cost an estimated $22,000 to operate for the winter. He said the United Way of Delaware County has granted $15,000 and the Delaware-Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services Board has pledged $5,000.
The Andrews House, a non-profit community services center, will serve as the fiscal agent for the Warming Center. Monetary donations may be sent to: Andrews House, 39 W. Winter St., Delaware OH 43015. To volunteer, contact Robin Lincoln at Safe Harbor/Annie’s Outreach at 740-417-0471.
Peterson will be the guest on the “Delaware City Digest” radio program at 9:30 a.m. Friday on WDLR (1550 AM).
Homeless women are able to stay at the Delaware Community YMCA on Houk Road.
The Zion United Church of Christ, 51 W. Central Ave., will be the site for Delaware’s Warming Center.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.