A coalition of community groups have teamed up to provide a sanctuary for homeless Delaware residents during this winter's coldest nights.

A coalition of community groups have teamed up to provide a sanctuary for homeless Delaware residents during this winter's coldest nights.

Zion United Church of Christ, 51 W. Central Ave. in downtown Delaware, will open a room in its basement to homeless men when the temperature drops below 20 degrees.

Brandon Feller, president of the United Way of Delaware County, said multiple area agencies began taking a closer look at homelessness during the winter of 2014-15. He said bitter temperatures led residents to ask where homeless men who frequented the Delaware County District Library and other public places during the day stayed at night.

"A number of citizens noticed that and started raising the issue, primarily online," he said.

Feller said city of Delaware officials brought multiple local groups together in January to discuss the area's lack of resources for homeless men. The city has shelter-style housing for families and women, but no such options for men.

He said the coalition "hit some roadblocks" searching for a location for a winter warming center before officials at Zion United Church of Christ offered their basement.

"The church is very welcoming in serving anyone as they come," Feller said.

An off-duty police officer and one or two volunteers will staff the warming station from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. on nights when temperatures are projected to drop below 20 degrees. The room designated for the center will be large enough to house the six to eight homeless men known to live in the open in and around the city, Feller said.

Although the church's basement has seen some upgrades and officials have purchased inflatable mats and other supplies for the center, the biggest expense is expected to be security.

Feller said the United Way has put $15,000 toward paying the warming center's costs. Consolidated Electric Cooperative donated $10,000, while the Delaware-Morrow Mental Health and Recovery Services Board added $5,000 toward the effort. The cost of running the center for the winter has been estimated at $22,000.

Feller said officials will need to make a call on whether to open the station 48 hours in advance in order to schedule security. After the decision is made, local first-responders and other officials will be notified so they can reach out to the men who may need use the station.

Social workers will be available to meet with the center's clients in the morning as they prepare to leave.

Delaware spokesman Lee Yoakum said city officials helped spark the discussion, but credit for establishing the center belongs to many groups and individuals.

"It wasn't just a city government solution," he said. "It really was a community solution."

Officials will continue to meet through the winter months to fine-tune operations at the warming center.

People interested in volunteering at the warming center may call Connections Volunteer Center at 740-363-5000. Donations to support the program may be made through Andrews House, 39 W. Winter St., 740-369-4520.