Code Purple Gets Reprieve on Fire Codes From Dover - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Code Purple Gets Reprieve on Fire Codes From Dover

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Dover City Hall Dover City Hall

DOVER, Del. -- City officials say they will allow Code Purple Kent County to give homeless people access to churches in Dover without fire sprinklers, so long as those operations fall under the classification of "sanctuary" rather than "emergency shelter."

Becky Martin, executive director of Code Purple Kent County, said organizers were worried the group would not be able to operate in Dover this winter because fire codes requiring sprinklers in "dormitories" would have prevented the nonprofit from using some churches as emergency shelters.

"Dover would have been without a code purple this season," she said.

Code Purple opens its locations when outdoor temperatures and weather conditions become dangerously cold.

Although Code Purple Kent County does operate in places outside Dover, the group has used the People's Church of Dover, a house of worship constructed in the early 1900s that does not have fire sprinklers, to help get up to 25 homeless people out of the cold.

Martin said the church was used despite a warning from the city's fire marshal about the potential code violation.

"We have been going back and forth in communication with the city since we received the first email last august from the fire marshal," she said.

Acting Dover City Planner Dave Hugg on Tuesday said the city would allow Code Purple to operate in places like the People's Church, so long as it did so as a "sanctuary." The distinction would allow Code Purple to be exempted from many land use restrictions.

"We can work around this issue as long as they're using churches as sanctuaries," he said.

The city did ask that People's Church use a fire watch protocol to make sure someone was awake overnight to ensure the building was safe and occasionally patrol the area for any potential issues.

Rev. Ellen Witko of the People's Church said that wouldn't be an issue.

"If something were to happen there's someone to alert them," she said. "If someone is ill in the night, there's someone who will notice."

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