LEWES, Del. - The homeless shelter shortage in the Lewes-Rehoboth area could have a solution soon. Senator Ernie Lopez and Representative Pete Schwartzkopf have been working to turn the former Delaware State Police Troop 7 Barracks into a shelter. 

When the former Rehoboth shelter didn't open its doors on December 1st, dozens of homeless people were left without a place to stay over the holidays. With Troop 7 moving to its new location on Mulberry Knoll Road, some began to wonder if the building on Coastal Highway could be used as a shelter.

Senator Ernie Lopez says he and Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf have been working to find a place for Code Purple Sussex to house people on nights colder than 32 degrees. He says they started to make inquiries at the state's budget office and that a process that should have taken about a year may be complete within three weeks. 

Lopez says that the State Fire Marshal has walked through the building and deemed that with some minor changes, it can be used as a temporary shelter, temporary meaning that it would be used only through the middle of March.

"The State Surplus Committee will be getting together over the course of the next week and have a formal meeting and cast a formal vote so that we can take the next step forward and enter into a memorandum of understanding with Code Purple and Love Inc," Lopez says.

The Delaware Office of Management and Budget says Code Purple has to meet insurance and permitting requirements and that the former Troop 7 barracks would serve a one-time-only transitional use. Afterward the state is required by law to see if any agency or nonprofit is interested in it. If not, it could be sold. That's why in the meantime Immanuel Shelter is working to find more beds. 

"We are housing in various local motels," says Board Member Don Peterson.

Peterson says these motel rooms cover 21 people in the Rehoboth area. 

"We have men, women and we also have families," says Peterson. "We've got a mother with her son and we have a mother and father with four children that we're currently sheltering."

Peterson says it's not clear yet how many people could sleep in the former police barracks. 

"There's an effort to bring together all of the stakeholders to talk about a long term solution," says Peterson. 

"The state will step in and provide funding for utility costs,"  says Lopez. 

Senator Lopez hopes the community can donate cots, blankets, pillows, food services and more to keep those without a home warm this winter.