Category Archives: Blog

School Uniform Initiative

In fall 2020, we launched a uniform initiative providing 400 uniform items to Evan G. Shortlidge Academy. Our goal is to expand this effort so no student in New Castle County will have to worry about having adequate or clean uniforms to wear to school. In fall 2021, we plan to redistribute 10,000 uniform items to 2,000 children.
 

We need your help! If your club, organization, company, faith community, or family and friends are looking to get involved in your community, please consider hosting a school uniform drive this spring or summer! Contact Cassandra Bryant for your uniform drive promotion kit. For more information about this initiative please click here.

The uniform items we are looking for include; clean new or gently used white/navy/light blue polos and khaki/navy pants & skirts, youth sizes; 3T-20. Donations can be brought in tied plastic bags to our Clothing Bank, located at 1603 Jessup St. Wilmington, DE 19802. Please label the bag with ‘uniform’. The Clothing Bank is open Monday-Thursday from 8:30am to 2:00pm. Anything you can donate will help equip students with a necessity. We’re so grateful for your loving support!

Hope Center Update

In December, New Castle County purchased the former Sheraton hotel, now called the Hope Center. The vision was to welcome those experiencing homelessness into temporary shelter for the winter. The county invited us to run programming out of this location, as we know the clientele well. We ensure all guests have access to food and transportation to their appointments and work. Our program also includes access to case management along with medical assistance, mental help professionals, and substance abuse counselors.

As of February 10, we had 166 guests filling 105 rooms. Our goal is to secure permanent housing for our guests and keep them from returning to the street.  If you or someone you know could benefit from this service please leave a voicemail or text 1-833-FIND-BED.

We are always looking for more volunteers or donations. If you’re interested in volunteering at the Hope Center, please email volunteer@friendshiphousede.org. For monetary donations, click here to donate now!

Click here to read some Hope Center stories!

Hope Center Stories

Behind every face is a story. When you look at someone’s face, you can only make guesses, or judgements, about the story based on what you think you see. Is there sadness or pain in their eyes? How old are the scars? How many sighs or laughs have those wrinkles experienced? 

When someone shares their story, it can change how you see their face. We realize the scar was from a childhood accident. We learn the sadness is from the fear of an aging parent, or lost child, or of the future. We might learn the wrinkles are from decades of walking in the sun.

We decide what part of our story we share. This is why it is such an honor for us at Friendship House to hear stories – whatever part someone is willing to tell. When someone reveals a piece of themselves they are exposing more of who they are and becoming vulnerable. In response, we look at that beloved face with compassion: a gift we can offer back. When hearing a story with compassion, oftentimes you see the face as more precious, more loved, and more beautiful. We are all children of God on a journey to find home. How we listen and learn along that journey could affect how we see one another and ourselves. 

We have already experienced hundreds of stories at the Hope Center. We are honored to share a few of these with you. 

When we opened on December 15, we welcomed 73 people who otherwise would have come to one of our Code Purple locations this winter. One woman came without her husband because he was in the hospital recovering from serious liver issues. She cried as we did her intake explaining her fear he may not make it. She told us, “We have never been apart. I am scared to be alone.” We assured her she wouldn’t be alone and noted to check in with her daily.

A man came in with bottles of alcohol in every pocket. He looked ready for a party. “You can’t have that with you,” we let him know. He let it all be confiscated as he drunkenly walked into his new home. The next morning, he thanked us for this opportunity. He explained without the Hope Center, he was sure this would have been the winter he died. He’s 56. He’s been suffering from substance abuse for many years. He drinks so much that not drinking without medical assistance would likely kill him. Within a few days we had him connected to the DSAMH Bridge Clinic onsite at the Hope Center. Although it is not a straight road to recovery, he has been in recovery for five weeks now and he’s doing great.

One woman has been living in a state of homelessness for 25 years. She’s very capable of managing the basics of her life, but she is suffering from psychosis of some sort. She lives in fear that someone comes into her room and messes with her belongings. Regularly she will call us expressing her concern. We pull the key logs and verify with her that no one but her has been in the room. And, if someone was, it was to fix a light, her microwave, or to perform weekly housekeeping duties while she remained available to watch. No matter the convincing we do, she still calls us daily to remind us someone is entering her room unannounced. She is an artist, and around the holidays made beautiful picture frames from wooden popsicle sticks and wrote a lovely note thanking us for being so kind.

We have a family of eight at the Hope Center. The mother works downstate and early every morning she takes five of her seven children with her and drops them off with grandparents. Two of those children still attend school in person through a Maryland school district, who has arranged transportation to and from the grandparent’s house. The three younger kids are watched by grandparents. Her oldest two sons, both in high school, are at the Hope Center virtually learning. The oldest boy, who is eighteen years old, has access to a second car and will take himself and his brother to a local park to play basketball. 

The journeys of our guests at the Hope Center are all unique and special. It remains a joy to be their loving, supportive community during this difficult time as they find their way home.

A Year End #ThankfulThursday

Hi friends,

This is Kim Eppehimer, the Executive Director and CEO of Friendship House. Being that today is the last day of 2020 and our last #ThankfulThursday of the year, I thought it would be appropriate to once again hijack today’s post and reflect on all I am grateful for this year.

Everyone agrees it has been an incredibly difficult year. Almost 350,000 Americans have died of a raging pandemic. We suffered political divides, experienced painful racial inequity continuing to exist in plain sight, and witnessed millions of people experiencing homelessness for the first time.

This year, FH has tried to look for gifts as a sign of hope when we felt uncertain, scared or lost. They are reminders that when we feel things are falling apart around us, we can still take a step forward and have faith we will find firm ground.

Some of these gifts include our February Fundraiser at Hagley Museum, which feels like so long ago. This was our last pre pandemic event where we were able to gather in person, celebrating FH, hugging and eating together. This fundraiser raised necessary funds while hearing success stories from graduates of our programs.

We were able to add two new houses to our Transitional Housing program due to the generous hearts of ChristianaCare and Westminster Presbyterian Church.

We were able to open the Boxwood Empowerment Center as a direct response to the lack of access to resources people so desperately need in our Millcreek, Richardson Park and Newport communities thanks to Calvary Presbyterian church, United Way of Delaware and Delaware Community Foundation.

Our participation in this year’s Highmark Walk broke incredible records for us and for the Wilmington Highmark Walk! We raised over $70,000 with more than 500 registered walkers all over the country.

FH has given almost three times its usual annual financial assistance support with incredible support from many organizations and church partners. As people continue to call us with over paid bills, we have been able to respond with hope to each person.

And we found a new partnership with New Castle County through the opening of the Hope Center. We started this journey thinking we would be able to open winter shelter for several months safely. It has now become a new program run by FH working with our friends living on the street and now many families who are on the brink of homelessness through the state service center hotel voucher program. What an incredible way to end our year.

These opportunities, these gifts, were beacons of light in dark times. The support and faith in our organization from our community has been truly humbling and remarkable.

I think for me the greatest gift has been witnessing the resilience of our organization, through the incredible support of our community. You have heard us say many times we never stopped moving forward. We never closed, we never gave up or gave in to the difficult times. Instead, FH persevered, found creative solutions, and fought for the vulnerable and often invisible people experiencing street level living. We did this while keeping our faith in tomorrow by giving our all today.

As we turn the corner to 2021, I think I am most touched by the collective hope of the human race. Everyone is expecting next year to be “better”. Although I know next year will be hard as we continue to fight through this pandemic, manage the COVID-19 vaccinations, and face the ramifications of lost income for millions of people, the fact that billions of people have hope for a brighter tomorrow brings me peace. That many people can’t be wrong.

Thank you to each and everyone of you – from my heroic colleagues, our incredible board of directors, and our faithful supporters – you have carried this organization forward every stop of the way. I am truly grateful.

May you have a blessed, happy, healthy and safe tomorrow.

Your friend,

Kim Eppehimer

Code Purple Update

It is in our core values and mission to serve our community, fill the gaps, and walk with each person as they find a way home. Especially during the winter. Even during a pandemic.

FH has been part of the Code Purple network in New Castle County for many years and we knew this program would look different this season due to COVID-19. Our first concern was finding space large enough to safely house our friends experiencing street level homelessness. Quickly followed by hiring sufficient staff and getting access to necessary supplies. At the time, it felt daunting and an impossible feat. Then New Castle County offered the idea of hosting Code Purple in a hotel and asked if we would be willing to run the program there. We believe the only answer is “Yes!”

The model of transforming a hotel for emergency shelter and services during the pandemic is being used nationwide by several cities. It is a model that requires collaboration, significant funding, an open mind, creativity and love for one’s community. All of these things are at the table as we are actively planning to use the Sheraton on Airport Road in New Castle as our location for winter shelter this season.

Here is what we know so far about how this will work. First, we will run daytime and evening winter shelter out of the hotel. This winter shelter location will be open every day and every night, not just when weather drops below freezing. Being able to offer 24 hour/ 7 day a week winter shelter during the pandemic is a huge gift and opportunity for our friends living on the streets. As many of you are aware, their lifelines closed when the pandemic forced so many businesses and organizations to close their buildings. This will be made more difficult in colder weather.

We are anticipating a December 15 start date. We will pre register people who are experiencing street level homelessness for space in the hotel now, starting with guests who frequent our Empowerment Centers.

Many logistics remain outstanding. For example, how we will feed our guests in the hotel, transportation (day and night) to and from the hotel, and how referrals will work.

Many of you have asked what you can do to help. If COVID-19 guidelines allow, we will offer volunteer opportunities. We need hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap (regular and travel size). In addition, we will need non perishable food items such as bottled water and individually wrapped snacks (pretzels, granola bars, fruit snacks, etc.) As well as new socks, underwear, and winter items (coats, gloves, and hats.)

We also will need your prayer and patience. This process is only possible because we are working in collaboration with other organizations and the New Castle County city council. This is a huge undertaking, and one we are so honored to be able to do. We will continue to share information as we learn more and create a plan of action.

To stay informed about Code Purple, visit our Code Purple web page and follow us on Facebook.

Thank you for all you do to be part of our loving, supportive community.

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