All posts by Friendship House

2,500 Uniform Items Down, Many More To Go!

The Friendship House Clothing Bank School Uniform Initiative was developed out of an identified need in our community as the many impacts of the pandemic began to surface. One of these impacts is the barrier for families to provide their children with the necessary items to be successful in the classroom due to their financial situation. The consequences can be significant when they show up to school out of dress code. In some instances they can miss class time or face disciplinary actions to rectify the issue. We are working hard to ensure that students have access to proper dress code items, like school uniforms, regardless of their financial situation. No child should be singled out because they do not have access to a basic need.

There are students in Delaware public schools who are struggling to obtain the required dress code uniform: solid color polo shirt and khaki/navy pant. In collaboration with school district personnel, principals, resource counselors, and other administrators we are working to meet the needs of the community. For the upcoming school year, we will be providing 2,000 students, throughout 5 targeted schools in the Red Clay Consolidated School District, with uniform items.

One of our participating schools for the 2021-2022 school year is Emaela P. Warner Elementary School. They are a Title I Community School within the City of Wilmington, serving a large population of students and families on the North and West sides of Wilmington. Jolisa Baker, Site Coordinator for Warner Elementary, explained that, “For Warner, the [School] Uniform Initiative will help several families send their children to school in their uniform at the beginning of the year and throughout the year.”

“Warner Elementary is very grateful for the Friendship House School Uniform Initiative and [we] look forward to participating every year!” – Jolisa Baker

Because of you, we have 2,500 uniform items in our inventory! These items will be distributed to the schools at the end of August. But this is just the start! Each year our initiative will grow, and we will continue expanding our reach until we are able to ensure every student in Delaware has a school uniform. Our vision is large, but we are committed to do what it takes; your loving support is what will help us reach this goal.

For more information and ways to help, please click here.

Furry Family Members Remain With Their Loved Ones

The support the Hope Center has received has assisted hundreds of individuals and families, and this includes several pets like Scruffy (see Jim and Scruffy’s story on the front page). Friendship House has partnered with Faithful Friends to ensure all guests with an animal companion receive the care they need. Sarah Granda, Marketing and Public Relations Manager for Faithful Friends, shared, “By providing basic and urgent veterinary care, pet food, and care packages that include treats, blankets, sweaters, and toys, we are keeping pets out of local animal shelters and with the families they love.”

“Since the Center’s opening in December, we’ve provided ongoing care for 30 pets including cats, dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and reptiles” – Sarah Granda

For some individuals and families, these pets are their service or companion animal. “We understand that pets provide emotional support to their owners and enrich the lives of those around them,” Sarah added.

Nancy Correll, Faithful Friends Volunteer

“In spite of everything they have been through, [the animals] are certainly loved and in good shape,” said Nancy Correll (pictured right), a Faithful Friends volunteer. Nancy shared with us the joys of what she does, recalling an individual who had been living in his car with his two dogs. Nancy, along with our staff walked with them on their journey. They are now in permanent housing and Nancy recalled, “the dogs maintained their well-being the whole time [they] were here.”

“We feel strongly that accessible services are vital for an equitable community and we enjoy working alongside the Friendship House team to support pets and people in our community” – Sarah Granda

Thanks to you, our loving supportive community, we have been able to provide families, individuals, and their animal companions with the attention and resources that they deserve.

“We all work together with one common goal” -Nancy Correll

And because of your loving support, we are one step closer to that goal.

We Survive Terrible Circumstances Because We Have Each Other

Dear Friends,
We survive terrible circumstances because we have each other. This is the heart of community and what helps us feel at home. This was evident in so many ways these past 18 months. You assisted your neighbors by bringing them groceries while they quarantined. You supported local restaurants and businesses. You gave to agencies like Friendship House. This kind of support was also seen throughout the nation, and additional benefits were given to millions of Americans to avoid complete devastation.

People managed to maintain their housing and keep their families fed because of the financial aid offered through the COVID-19 Cares Act funding. With this additional funding people focused on how to make it through the worst pandemic we have ever faced. Shelters like the New Castle County Hope Center were able to open, while businesses and nonprofits continued serving. However, as the urgent response to the pandemic ceases, so do the benefits millions have relied on to keep them afloat.

Our nation is trying to move from surviving the COVID-19 pandemic to rebuilding and recovering. This will be an arduous task for the millions of people about to lose their Cares Act benefits. From the additional assistance they have been receiving from the extra unemployment benefit, to the moratorium on evictions, our community is about to fall off a huge benefits cliff. There is not enough of a net to catch everyone.

In preparation for this significant decrease in assistance, I am asking for your help as we prepare ourselves to grow the net. We are committed to researching which agencies have funding available, what other resources exist, and how much we have to give. The numbers of those experiencing homelessness have already increased – we cannot let these numbers continue to rise. Will you help us?

You can be the reason a family maintains a roof over their head while on the brink of another school year beginning. You can ensure our supplies are at record highs as people’s access to food decreases. Your donation will make the difference for someone experiencing homelessness to find their way home. You can be the answer to someone’s prayer. Please consider a donation today.

Your friend,

Kim Eppehimer
Executive Director

The Top Dog and James – A Fines and Fees Story

“He is the Top Dog,” James, a Hope Center resident, said about his dog Scruffy (pictured left). James and Scruffy moved into the NCC Hope Center in December and have been a welcomed presence. The two are frequently seen in the lobby interacting with staff and other residents. James has been chronically homeless most of his adult life and has had an ongoing relationship with Friendship House for over 20 years.

As the country shut down in response to COVID-19, many individuals found themselves presented with obstacles they have never had to deal with before, James was among them. He found himself without a job, without an ID, and facing barriers he didn’t know existed.

While James attempted to apply for the stimulus check in the early months of the pandemic, he was consistently rejected. Left with few options, James and Scruffy were resigned to living in a tent. When the Hope Center opened in December we screened James to see if he’d be interested in entering this temporary shelter. Within the week, the two moved into the Hope Center in time to escape a snowstorm. FH staff members continue to work closely with James and Scruffy. We provide them with case management, support, and access to many other on-site resources. This includes resources for Scruffy through our partnership with Faithful Friends (click here to read about this partnership), ensuring that the two are not separated.

While working with us, James discovered he had a minor outstanding court fee from the 90’s. This fee was the barrier keeping him from obtaining his ID, his stimulus check, receiving disability, and finding a job. For 24 years, James did not know he had this fine holding him back. So, we stepped in to assist.

Because of your support and in partnership with the Campaign to End Debtor’s Prison, we have been able to expand our Financial Assistance program to include a Fines and Fees Fund. We work with almost 4,000 people every year who are experiencing various levels of homelessness. Some of these individuals do not have the financial stability to pay a financial burden that accompanies an infraction, violation, or misdemeanor. Some are even unaware of the fees that are attached to them. When the problem continues to be unresolved, a warrant for one’s arrest can ensue.

James sat down with FH case managers in the spring of 2021, and through the Fines and Fees Fund we were able to assist him. Using the fund, we paid this fine that was preventing him from obtaining basic necessities needed to live a self sufficient life. James reflected on working with FH during his time at the Hope Center, he commented the staff was, “Awesome as always.”

James and Scruffy continue to stay at the Hope Center while they work on their way to permanent housing. “Better than the tent, no complaints,” James added about their stay at the Hope Center.

Ultimately, James said he was grateful for FH and the Hope Center. James and Scruffy were given, “opportunities [they] didn’t have living in his tent.”

Your loving support has aided us to begin breaking the cycle of homelessness caused by court issued fines for a person living in poverty. Your donations enable us to help individuals and families, like James and Scruffy, through the Fines and Fees Fund.

35% increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in DE – how did this happen?

You have seen the headlines, “Delaware has seen a 35% increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the past year.” (Delaware Online article) (DPM article)

How did this happen?

This devastating increase is due to COVID-19 and our inability to understand how deeply the pandemic would affect our lives; from jobs to landlords and accessibility to services.

Let’s step back 14 months. It’s April 2020 and we are now experiencing the worst pandemic this country has ever experienced. Businesses are forced to close and people are told to shelter in place. It was bad. You were there – you remember.

This left millions of people vulnerable and fearful of how they would survive the pandemic physically, financially, and mentally. When in the midst of a crisis, it is very difficult to understand how to make the best decisions for the future. This is why we prepare contingency plans – almost every organization has one so when a crisis hits there are thoughtful protocols in place. Because when in a crisis you don’t get the luxury to stop and think.

Raise your hand if you had such protocols for this level of a pandemic? I didn’t think so. Neither did we at Friendship House. We had to think and act quickly. For us, that meant figuring out how to protect our staff while being available to one of the most vulnerable and often invisible populations: those experiencing homelessness. While we focused on this group, there were plans to help many other Americans such as stimulus checks and increased unemployment benefits. The problem with this plan is even though it supported what we would generally consider the “middle class,” it was insufficient for those living on the margins, on the brink of already losing everything. This specific group of people barely have enough resources to make it through a small crisis. Unfortunately, there was not enough support to help them through something as serious as this pandemic. They suffered exponentially.

Those who live on the margins include those who do not have a savings account to help in crises. They tend to use community resources such as food banks, libraries, and clothing closets to supplement their income. For many, they were the ones considered essential employees during the pandemic. They put their families or themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19. Some were so desperate to work even if their hours and pay shrank. Some people who fall into this category didn’t qualify for unemployment, let alone the additional unemployment benefits. For some they may make too much to qualify for state supplemental financial assistance, but not enough to cover all of their needs.

Many struggled to work as their child care ceased and school-age children were at home. In addition, some landlords were able to work around the eviction moratorium, especially for leases naturally ending. Many contracted COVID-19, lost their jobs, had extended hospital stays, and lost loved ones, too.

Fast forward to today. No wonder homelessness has increased. Those living on the edge of being ok prior to the first state of emergency announced on March 13 are now experiencing homelessness, many for the first time. They have lost their loving and supportive community as everything closed around them.

Sadly, many of them have been families which increases the number of children experiencing homelessness significantly. Families are now living in hotels paid for by the state – some have been there since last spring. They are stuck in a difficult system that is not designed for pandemics.

There’s not enough affordable housing available for these folks and there are long waiting lists for housing voucher programs. Not enough landlords are willing to accept residents who are part of state programs. At the same time, the number of people seeking housing and shelter is continuing to rise. These recent numbers as presented by the Delaware Housing Alliance should be a wake-up call (Housing Alliance press release). We, as a state and nation, were not ready for this kind of pandemic. Quite honestly, I wish we never had to be – this pandemic is heartbreaking, heart-wrenching, and unfair. But it happened, and it could happen again.

We have a tremendous amount of work to do to right the wrongs this pandemic has shown light on. And then we have more work to do in order to prepare ourselves before the next crisis occurs. Homelessness can’t be solved because crises will continue to cause people to lose their loving supportive community. However, we must find a way to lessen the impact when crises hit. There must be more viable options and fewer restrictions to get people back to stability. In addition, we must find ways to support those who are living on the margins: worthy people who are paid less than a livable wage, people who are criminalized because they are poor, people often marginalized because of their socioeconomic status or skin color (if not both).

This kind of work will take a committed, loving, supportive community. It will take collaboration and effort. It will require innovative and forward thinking. It will take courage.

We at Friendship House are committed to being part of the solution. By supporting the minimum wage of $15/hr, fighting against repercussions for people who can not afford court fines or fees, and continuing to fill the gaps where most needed, Friendship House is committed to ensuring every person has a place to call home. I hope you will join us.

Kim Eppehimer
Executive Director

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