Delaware shelters make room for people during storm

Shelters in Wilmington and around Delaware are making room for people as Hurricane Sandy approaches the Delaware area. Although some centers are full, emergency beds are being offered until the storm passes.

Shortly before 9 a.m. Monday morning, the scene was quite unusual for officials at the Sunday Breakfast Mission in Wilmington.  According to Pastor Floyd Wheeler, people who normally come in during the overnight shift leave the shelter by 6 a.m. but today, people are staying. 

“When I got in this morning about 5:30, the overnight guys were having their breakfast, right after that our residents came in and had breakfast, but our overnighters are still here, usually our overnighters are gone buy six in the morning, but they are here and are going to remain here until the weather clears up,” said Pastor Floyd Wheeler.

Wheeler also tells WHYY the men’s shelter currently has about 120 men including 42 full-time residents.  They’re able to accommodate close to 200 men just as they have in the past.

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“We have enough space right here in the mission. We simply have a ground floor not a basement but on our ground floor we are able to house those who come,” added Pastor Wheeler.

Meanwhile, women and children are also housed at the mission but in another building. Pastor Wheeler is unclear how many beds are available there at this time.

“[On] the family and women side of the shelter we have a large gymnasium as well so we can utilize that space for others who might come if we have an overflow.”

As for other shelters such as House of Joseph 1, all twelve beds are currently full but Director Willie Newson has set up 2 emergency beds because of the storm.  

Statewide there were 500 people who used shelters on Sunday night. This morning Gov. Jack Markell visited William Penn High School in New Castle County which has been set up as a shelter. The National Guard, Red Cross and S.P.C.A officials are all on duty at the facility assisting 75 people and at least a dozen animals. Bunny Laird of the Red Cross says if necessary the shelter can house about a thousand people including pets.

“Everybody has been wonderful here, we have great volunteers and staff at the school.  This has been a great shelter with everyone coming together as a whole,” said shelter manager Bunny Laird.

“Prior to coming here, the water was coming up in the back and was splashing over so it was time to get out because I was afraid of it flooding the house,” said Susanna Garver whose Middletown house sits near the Delaware River.

As the weather worsens, Markell continues to advise people to stay home.  “I just wanted to come and see some of the people at the shelter, they’re really pleased with the work that the Red Cross is doing and all the volunteers who are grateful to them,” said Gov. Markell.

WHYY also learned that some area shelters were filled to capacity prior to the storm because of the high demand for local housing.  State officials say anyone using a shelter should expect minimal conditions.  That means a space on the floor. People should bring their own bedding. 

“We expect a lot of debri, we can be without power for a long time and this is going to be with us for awhile. There are a lot of people who are working now, and lot of people who are going to have to continue to work on the cleanup,” said Markell.

For a list of area shelters that are open and and still accepting residents, people can go to the website

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