Anyone who needs help can to walk into the Circle of Light office at 129 N.W. Front Street by 4 p.m. and be signed up for a bed.

Circle of Light’s offices are located at 129 N.W. Front St. in Milford. For more information, call 422-2335 or email

The homeless in Milford now have somewhere to go on a cold night.

On Jan. 24, Circle of Light Ministries, an interfaith group dedicated to helping homeless women in the Milford area, opened its first shelter.

“This is our next step toward building a homeless shelter for women in Milford,” Deacon Dorothy Vuono, co-chair of Circle of Light, said.

It’s not a full-time building yet. Instead, Circle of Light will run a cold-weather shelter with 16 beds, available first-come-first-served for any night when temperatures will drop below 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Anyone who needs help will be able to walk into the Circle of Light office at 129 N.W. Front Street by 4 p.m. and be signed up for a bed.

“We’ve needed something like this for a long time — we started talking about a homeless shelter almost 20 years ago,” said Pastor Jeanel Starling of St. Paul United Methodist Church, one of six churches involved in Circle of Light. “Thanks be to God, Deacon Dottie started spearheading it and pushing it, really got it off the ground because I knew I couldn’t be the one. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.”

Residents at the shelter will be given clothes and a meal at the Circle of Light office before volunteers take them to the shelter itself, where they’ll be able to wash up and stay the night with volunteers from member churches before leaving in the morning.

“We’ve been very blessed that there are a number of churches that are stepping up to the plate to provide meals and overnight supervision,” Vuono said. “I’m absolutely thrilled to see the overall enthusiasm of the people who are banding together to help. It’s very heartwarming to see that there are people who care about the homeless.”

Circle of Light based its cold-weather shelter on one that the Dover Interfaith Mission ran two years ago. Jeanine Kleimo, who helped head up that program, said help from local churches has been vital to making the shelter work.

“That kind of support is essential,” she said. “In each of the past two years, we’ve served more than 10,000 individual dinners with a food budget of zero.”

Vuono said she’s been trying to build a shelter for homeless women in Milford for more than four years.

“I was taking some classes that involved other ministers, and they were talking about the need for a shelter for women in Milford,” she said. “I investigated it, and found that that was so.”

In 2009, there were 1,479 homeless people in Kent and Sussex counties, Vuono said. While there are a number of transitional homes in the Milford area, including God’s Way to Recovery and the Home of the Brave, all of them are aimed either primarily or exclusively at men.

“A woman becoming homeless can be as simple as a woman who lives with her grandmother and she says ‘you can no longer stay here,’” Vuono said. “And when that happens, she may have nowhere to go.”
It’s the mirror image of the problem Dover Interfaith faces — that area had many shelters dedicated to women, but none for men.

“We started the men’s shelters because the existing shelters in Dover target women and families; there was nowhere for men to go; apparently it’s the opposite in Milford,” Kleimo said. “Anybody who wants to meet a community need should understand what the need really is.”

Although the need was striking, Vuono saw no choice but build up to a shelter, step by step.

“We realized that we were a small group and needed to start on a small scale,” she said. “We started as a resource center for women.”

They opened an office, at first by appointment only and then adding regular meetings of their support group, Sharing & Caring. Now they’ve opened a temporary shelter. The next step, Vuono said, would be to find a building, somewhere in a commercial zone, that could be turned into a full-time shelter for women.

“That’s our dream,” she said. “We still need the building, but we’re hoping this will help us get there.”
In the meantime, Circle of Light will continue to do everything they can to help the homeless in Milford and get ready for the day they can go full-time.

Circle of Light’s offices are located at 129 N.W. Front St. in Milford. For more information, call 422-2335 or email