MILFORD — Last year, homeless men in the Milford area were sometimes shuttled to another town to find a warm bed in a Code Purple shelter for just one night.
This year, they can find warmth right in the heart of Milford thanks to a new shelter inside Avenue United Methodist Church.
Joyce Bonnini, who has helped spearhead the idea at the church with a dedicated group of volunteers, said she was relieved to discover that not only did she have a heart for the homeless, but so did Senior Pastor Tom Pasmore.
“I had read about Code Purple in the newspaper. My heart was already intrigued, but it got my interest when I read the article,” she began to explain.
“Somebody said our church was going to do Code Purple, but Pastor Tom had said no. So I said, ‘Well, why not?’”
After discovering there was already a shelter for women and children at the Multicultural Church down the street, she felt for the men who had no where to go once the temperature reached 32 degrees or lower.
“I had heart surgery and I was just trying to figure out why am I still here; there’s lot of personal stuff that goes on after something like that. Someone in one of my reunion meetings was trying to figure out the same thing: What is her purpose? And she said, ‘you have to figure out what breaks your heart.’ And I knew. This is what breaks my heart,” Ms. Bonnini said.
The seed was planted.
“It was growing and growing. Pastor Tom has a very similar heart. He’s been all in from the start,” she added.
To help the church become a Code Purple shelter, volunteers and staff from the church had to meet with volunteers from Code Purple along with the church council and trustees.
Volunteers then took trainings, learned of safety concerns and how to successfully manage a Code Purple shelter.
Code Purple provides cots, blankets, pillows sheets, cleaning supplies and other necessities, Ms. Bonnini said. The rest is up to the church and community.
“We’re going to rely on the community. Everything is donation based,” she added. “The purpose is to keep them alive for another night. That takes a community.”
Helping the shelters
Donations to Code Purple help each shelter. Ms. Bonnini said the church would also like to have to-go bags to hand out to the men who find their way to Milford’s first male-only Code Purple shelter.
“We want to be able to give away a lot of things. Canned goods, hats, gloves, water bottles, food to take for the day… the list goes on. Getting the word out at this point is the most important. We want to make sure that population knows,” she said, adding that volunteers are also welcome.
“Everyone volunteering has their own unique story that makes their involvement personal. God will use the life experiences of the volunteers and those of our guests to impact each other in powerful ways. We will all grow richly from this.”
Code Purple shelters will be open through November and December when the temperature dips below 32 degrees. Shelters will then be open every night in January and February through March 12.
Intake runs from 7-9 p.m. and guests leave at 7 a.m. the following morning. Dinner and fellowship is provided.
“We’re not looking for this to be an Avenue thing. We want this to be a community thing,” Ms. Bonnini said. “I think it’s a blessing for the church and we will all grow from the experience of helping our fellow human beings. It’s a great opportunity for families and the community to prepare a meal together to donate, to shop for donations and to hang out and have fellowship with our guests.”
Jennifer Antonik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org