All posts by Friendship House

Continuing to Fill Gaps

For 35 years, Friendship House has filled gaps in New Castle County for those experiencing houselessness, homelessness, or searching for a way home. We continue to adapt and ensure the needs of the community are being met by stepping in where others won’t. FH has proven to be nimble and flexible when the community needs us most, the biggest example being our robust response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even in the midst of a pandemic, crises continued. Friendship House did what we do best: we responded.

WILMINGTON FLOODING
Storms from Hurricane Ida flooded Wilmington causing damage to many buildings, the devastation of anpicture of an apartment building affected by the flood entire apartment complex, and hundreds of folks to be displaced. As our community reached out wanting to help, we filled the gap by becoming a bridge connecting resources to those most impacted. Through a community liaison, we learned of 20 displaced families searching for a way home.

Because of you, we delivered diapers, hygiene items, school clothing,
and even a car seat to numerous families. We connected families to the Hope Center, assisted in housing applications, and helped folks recover their belongings from the devastation to safety. We stepped up to fill this gap in our community and it was possible because of your support! Thank you to the many faith communities and individuals who reached out looking to help. We’re so grateful for your support. A special thank you to Christ Church Christiana Hundred for their donations to this cause!

REFUGEES IN DELAWARE
As Jewish Family Services began to take additional refugee families in the wake of the devastation happening in Afghanistan in September, they reached out to their community for support. At the time, we had a vacant house in our Transitional Housing Program. We are thrilled JFS is using this as a temporary resting place for a refugee family of 5 until they secure permanent housing. As affordable housing remains scarce, this was a key opportunity in allowing the family to have stability upon arrival. We are so pleased to be able to assist this family and fill a gap where we’re able. 

A Message of Grace

Friendship House believes homelessness occurs when someone is disconnected from their community. This is because, as so many of us have experienced, your home is where your heart is and your heart tends to be embedded in those you love: your community of friends and family. Losing this can feel like you are losing everything. 

There is so much pain involved with homelessness. Partly due to the losses one suffers and largely because those experiencing homelessness are treated poorly because of  the stigma associated with being “homeless.” 

Some perceive homelessness as a choice or one’s own fault. Some believe those who live on the streets are dangerous and cause criminal acts of violence. Many see those experiencing homeless as dirty. These perceptions result in the homeless population seeming invasive, unwelcomed and even an “eye sore.” The separation and stigma of homelessness is worsened by the need for someone else to be on the bottom rung of the ladder. This stigma has propelled classism creating a larger rift in our community in a time when the marginalized need to feel loved more than ever.

Ultimately, these beliefs result in society turning a blind eye to those in need. It can be easier to allow those suffering to continue suffering, especially if the suffering doesn’t affect the person who can offer help. This is seen in how hard it is for a person to get out of a homeless situation. For example, it is very hard to find a job without stable housing. It can be hard to earn a livable wage after being incarcerated. It is hard to save money when living paycheck to paycheck. It is unconscionable how hard society has made it on those who are stigmatized and suffering. 

When someone who can offer help faces someone who is suffering, they have a choice: allow them to keep suffering or offer grace?

The Webster dictionary defines grace as “disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.” This seems like the exact response to someone who is suffering, doesn’t it? Then why do we, as a community, insist on making it so hard for someone who is already suffering – whether it be from mental illness or substance abuse, or any other marginalized community? There is too much stigma resulting in not enough resources for those who are on the margins, suffering, and separated from their community. Our community has a choice on how we respond and how we help. 

FH believes everyone deserves grace. No matter how many bridges may have been burnt or how many times you have received grace already, we will continue to offer grace. Whether it is the moment you begin a difficult journey or you have been on a difficult journey for years, we will always be your loving, supportive community.

When someone asks for help, at FH we choose grace. What will you choose?

Kim, Executive Director

More Than Just A Center

“If [Friendship House] didn’t exist, I wouldn’t actually know what to do,” said Timothy, who has been utilizing the services provided at our Empowerment Center for many years. He first came to us when he was a child in the 90s with his mother. We assisted his mother with her overdue bills through what was then the Women’s Day Center. Timothy came back to us in his adult life for assistance, remembering how FH was able to assist his mother. 

Timothy & ShereeTimothy and Sheree (pictured left) are currently renting a room from a family member. Presently, they are unemployed and working with our staff to help secure a job and find permanent housing. This is especially important as Sheree is currently pregnant with their child. Sheree described a typical day for them, “We wake up about 7 am – 8 am, come to the Wilmington Empowerment Center to get some coffee and then we usually get on the bus, take care of the business we have to take care of.” Timothy added, “Waking up every morning, trying to figure out your next move is the most stressful part.” 

Most of the folks our Empowerment Centers work with are currently experiencing homelessness and in desperate need of basic necessities and a loving, supportive community. This is where FH aims to fill the gaps by providing those needs to the community. “Friendship House guides you to the right path,” said Timothy about how FH has impacted his life. Guiding people towards a path of self-sufficient living within a community is part of our mission. 

Sheree and Timothy frequently visit our Empowerment Center for the morning hospitality, clothing, checking their email, and other delivered mail. “They give me good advice,” Sheree said. “Currently, they are helping me get insurance and my food stamps. They also let me use their PO Box mailing address.” 

“Most of the stuff I receive I would have never had. I got my birth certificate, social security card, and my ID through [FH]… Nine times out of ten, nobody would be where they are without Friendship House,” Timothy added after reflecting on the impact FH has made on his life. He continued, “I think FH plays a role in everything we do… They help with the struggle you’re going through.”

We aim to create a sense of community to help everyone find a place to call home. Timothy and Sheree reflected on their experience with the various staff members and volunteers they have met and worked with at the Empowerment Center. “Without [Friendship House] I would be lost because this is where I get most of my information. Each person here helps you get something different,” Sheree said.

“I think FH plays a role in everything we do… They help with the struggle you’re going through.” – Timothy

Timothy mentioned, “Christina (Empowerment Center Case Worker) would definitely say ‘don’t give up, no matter what you’re going through.’ Christina makes you smile more than anything.” Timothy and Sheree both praised the staff and volunteers for their attitudes, approach, and the work they do. Everyone involved with FH believes in the mission and works to fulfill this mission every day. “I appreciate all of them. I respect all of them,” Timothy said about the staff at the Empowerment Centers. 

We work with thousands of individuals, each on a different path and at various points in their journey, every year at our four Empowerment Centers (Wilmington, Newark, MOT, and Boxwood). Our staff and volunteers work tirelessly in an effort to ensure everyone feels as though they are part of a loving, supportive community.

We hope to meet those in need, wherever they are in their journey. “[FH] taught me a valuable lesson: always keep asking for help, never stop asking for help because you’re gonna get it no matter where you go,” Timothy said.

We work to unite people facing homelessness with loving, supportive communities they can call home. And while they continue on their journey, we become their community. Timothy added a final comment about FH, “If you keep coming here, you’re not a friend anymore, you’re a family member.”

Highmark Walk 2021

Because of you, we raised over $73,000 for the Highmark Walk!
Thank you so much for walking, fundraising, and donating to the 2021 Virtual Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community. Because of your dedication, this year’s walk was a huge success! We had 29 walk teams, registered over 500 walkers, and raised over $73,000. On June 5th, you came together in virtual community to support our life-changing, life-saving programs. We are so grateful for the turnout we had and we hope you felt part of our virtual walk family. You walked in 16 different states! You walked in parks, on beaches, in neighborhoods, while mowing the lawn, to the mailbox and back, or with other FH supporters.

Your walk for #AWayHome helps us fill the gaps in New Castle County. $73,000 can keep our Clothing Bank running for 6 months. This includes supporting our Job Training Program and School
Uniform Initiative. $73,000 can provide financial assistance to nearly 300 households. Our Financial Assistance program helps Delawareans keep their electricity running. $73,000 can support our residents in our Transitional Housing program for 6 weeks. Our housing program supports up to 35 individuals at a given time. You make our programs possible!

 


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.