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Friendship House has provided case management services to people in Delaware for over 35 years. While our case management services include helping people obtain their birth certificates and IDs, providing financial assistance for outstanding utility bills, or walking with someone searching for an apartment, we offer so much more. Throughout all of our programs, case management is sprinkled into everything we do. We take a holistic approach by providing loving support for people experiencing homelessness and houselessness in Delaware working towards a goal. We value assisting folks on their own journey, helping them navigate to where they want to be, while not dictating or setting expectations on where they should be heading. We often describe our case managers as sitting in the passenger seat while those utilizing our services drive the car. The driver has chosen the destination and is in control of getting themselves there. We will help identify obstacles in their way of reaching this destination, make suggestions for overcoming them and help move barriers in the way or coach them through navigating these barriers. It is important to us people have the opportunity to remain in control of their lives while we provide unconditional, loving support.
Case management is seen through all our programs. In our Transitional Housing program, staff provide intensive case management to residents as they navigate where to go after experiencing homelessness and often houselessness. Our Empowerment Centers’ staff utilize case management to meet people where they are, listen to where they would like to go, help them navigate the system, and relieve barriers. Our Clothing Bank provides clothing orders to the community as well as case management to the women in our Creating Excellent Outcomes (CEO) program, a life-skills and job training program as they exit incarceration. While our case managers provide services, we also offer support, hospitality, and friendship to everyone who comes to us, and value hearing their story.
Friendship House provides loving support to everyone. We’re here to walk with people on their journey, not to close the door on them. We are their loving, supportive community. We are a place they can call home.
Robert came to Friendship House’s (FH) case managers through the New Castle County Hope Center after returning to the US from Vietnam. Robert lived in Vietnam for 20 years, teaching English and raising his two sons whom he adopted in Vietnam. When a stroke and expired visa left him with no options, he returned home to the US for the medical attention he desperately needed. Upon arriving in Delaware, Robert stayed at The Sunday Breakfast Mission in Wilmington before temporarily moving into the Hope Center. At the Hope Center Robert was immediately connected with FH case manager, Kelly. She helped Robert get Medicaid so he could receive the medical attention he desperately needed. Kelly was able to assist Robert with obtaining his birth certificate, social security card, and other documents he needed to get further assistance such as housing. “My life is full of angels and Kelly is one of them,” Robert said.
After Robert received medical treatment, he returned to the Hope Center to recover while he looked for a place to live on his own. Kelly worked with him every step of the way. “To me, she is a very comforting person. She understands me and she understands the situation. She’s creative and has a great attitude. I can’t say enough about her, she’s an angel,” Robert said about Kelly. The two had frequent meetings where they would sit together and find applications for housing to fill out. Even when Robert was having doubts, Kelly and FH were there to support him and encourage him to keep going. Robert reflected by saying, “That positive energy they all had, they weren’t accepting defeat, and not letting me accept defeat kept me going.”
Through FH, Robert met Bill, an FH volunteer, who helped support him and more importantly became a friend. Robert spoke about the impact Bill has had during his journey: “He has also become a dear friend. He comes over, he checks on me, he takes me shopping, takes me to church. He’s a really good friend. He’s another angel who came into my life.”
Eventually, Robert was successful in securing a place of his own which Kelly helped him find and apply for, and FH helped pay for the application fee through our Financial Assistance Program. “They really have supported me in so many different ways. I know it would be very stressful, if not impossible, for me to figure my way through these things,” Robert added. He is now living in his furnished apartment, and working a part-time job, which Bill connected him, with Westminster Presbyterian Church (WPC), as an ESL teacher. “Kelly helped me get the house and the bills set up. Then Bill got the furniture from New Life Furnishings (a ministry of WPC). It’s just the kind of stuff I would have trouble doing on my own,” Robert said.
Robert still frequents our Wilmington Empowerment Center any time he needs assistance or help understanding something, and FH welcomes him with open arms. He is part of the Friendship House family and we will be there to cheer him on and guide him whenever he needs. “When you feel overwhelmed and beat down, FH is always there to help you out. That’s what I love about the group.”
Friendship House (FH) has always been known as an organization capable of filling gaps in services quickly and efficiently for those experiencing homelessness or houselessness since our inception in 1987. Over the past two and a half years, we have played a more critical role as filling gaps turned into responding to crises with an increased level of efficiency, quickness, and love. Today, that is no different as we turn our attention to a new crisis hitting our state.
How has FH responded to crises over the past two and a half years?
Immediately after the COVID-19 pandemic caused Delaware to close down in defense against COVID-19 in March 2020, we found funding to put people into hotels who would otherwise be too vulnerable living on the streets. We did this for three months as we brought meals and case management to them. Knowing it was financially unsustainable for FH, we were able to move all of our guests who were in hotels over to the state service centers motel voucher program while we maintained relational case management.
As winter 2020 approached, the next crisis was figuring out how to offer our Code Purple programming during a pandemic. Hitting various barriers and unsure of how we could solve this problem, New Castle County invited us to be part of their new Hope Center in December 2020 to offer emergency shelter for folks needing this type of program. After 14 months of powerful partnership at the NCC Hope Center and creating a strong program, we knew it was time to move on and begin looking at other needs in our community. Fortunately, we were ready for the next crisis: a desperate need for financial assistance in our community. Our community started to feel the pressure of COVID-19 financially as people started to lose their jobs due downsizing, illnesses, or even childcare concerns. The result was a double in our Financial Assistance program spending.
In 2021, Hurricane Ida hit Wilmington especially hard and took homes from people instantaneously. Friendship House immediately stepped in and asked “how can we help?” With the support of our community, we raised funding and began offering emergency services such as finding temporary shelter, transportation, paying for application fees, providing clothing, diapers, and more. When this happened we decided it was time to officially declare FH needed a crisis intervention fund. This started in September 2021. Unfortunately, it needed to be implemented in May of 2022 as the next crisis hit Wilmington when several apartments on Adams Street were condemned overnight due to severe neglect by the landlord. Many people were instantly houseless. We used our Crisis Intervention fund to step in and do what we have been doing for the past two years: filling the gaps.
How is FH responding again?
The current crisis is the loss of American Rescue Plan pandemic state funding which could result in hundreds of households becoming houselessness late September 2022 (originally August 31, but they were granted a 30-day extension). These households have been able to stay in motels long-term in order to sustain housing through the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding alleviated pressure on shelters and programs as houselessness has increased during the pandemic and kept many very vulnerable people safe. The challenge this presented, however, is these folks got stuck in this situation because there was no space in shelters or programs, and available housing they can afford has been incredibly limited.
As the funding is ending the lack of available places for these people to go remains an issue. The pressure of losing their housing will encourage some to take their last resort options such as moving in with family or moving out of state. Unfortunately, though, many people will move out without anywhere to go. FH is helping by partnering with our State Service Centers and coordinating efforts with human services agencies statewide to provide additional love and support for each person transitioning out of their current shelter situation.
What can you do?
Advocate. Please reach out to your local Delaware Representatives to share your concern about the lack of affordable housing available to folks who have little to no income. To find your representative, go here: https://legis.delaware.gov/FindMyLegislator
Donate. FH needs your help so we can provide critical services to these individuals. We need funding to help people transition out of motels into shelters or for those who do not have a shelter or home to go in hopes of making it a softer exit. We want to be available to help families who are starting school, seeking different employment, and overcoming any barrier that has been in their way. We also need to grow our staff in order to meet these needs statewide.
Checks can be made payable to Friendship House with ‘Crisis Fund’ in the memo and sent to PO Box 1517 Wilmington, DE 19899. For online donations, please click here.
Thank you for your consideration and please reach out should you have any questions or desire to learn more.
Article featuring our Executive Director, Kim Eppehimer, which share’s about the emergency funds ending (for subscribers only): As pandemic funds dry up, hundreds face homelessness when motel vouchers expire Aug. 31
Article announcing the ARP funding ending at the end of the month: Pandemic emergency shelter program will run out of funding by end of month
Once a year, the same night every year, the Housing Alliance of Delaware (HAD) counts every person they can who is experiencing houselessness statewide. This is called the PIT Count (point in time). In order to get as complete a count as possible, HAD works with shelters, agencies and organizations statewide. Hundreds of volunteers over the course of weeks help to gather information to try and secure an accurate count. It is an impressive undertaking.
We use this data point to assess how we as a state are doing in managing houselessness in Delaware. This specifically measures unhoused folks – which is why I use the word houselessness.
HAD has released the 2022 PIT count. Not surprisingly, the number of those experiencing houselessness has more than doubled since the January 2020 count. COVID-19 has taken so much from so many people – the collateral damage alone is heartbreaking, let alone the lives lost. Our community has suffered so much pain. Fortunately, fewer lives are being lost to COVID-19, largely due to the vaccinations. But lives are still being lost. Fortunately, more people are maintaining employment and evictions have not drastically increased. But people are still not able to earn enough income to stay above their monthly expenses.
There are not enough housing options for people. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in Delaware only 34 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households (those who earn less than 30 percent of the area medium income), which is below the national average.
Add to this the cost of living – rental rates and housing costs are incredibly high. Milk, meat and gas costs are astronomical. Our community continues to suffer and the PIT count is an example of the collateral damage all around us.
We often use our Financial Assistance Program to gauge where our community is with financial health. Our Financial Assistance Program is direct financial aid to people who are about to lose their housing or it helps people make a leap back into housing. This program helps with unpaid utilities or rent. It also includes assistance for security deposit or first month’s rent. We use it to help people who have little to no income to pay off court fees, obtain their state ID or driver’s license, or certification for potential employment. It’s flexible and always available in the time of someone’s most desperate need. When COVID-19 hit in 2020, we spent more in this program than any prior year. We wrote it off as a one time thing because we had secured special grants to put people in hotels to weather the health crisis. We were wrong. In 2021, we spent almost the same as in 2020 but little to none of it was on hotel stays. It all switched to utility bills, and some rental assistance. We are halfway through 2022 and we are ahead of where we have been the past two years with financial assistance given out to our community. We have only been able to do this because of your help. You have provided incredible support to FH so we can support our community.
Clearly, there is a lot of need in our community. Join us in not accepting this increase of need as a barrier, something to be fearful of, or something we can’t do anything about. With your help, we will continue to keep our Empowerment Centers open and inviting to all. We will continue to make sure the community has access to our Clothing Bank. And we will continue to ensure those in our Transitional Housing Program maximize their resources to graduate ready for self-sufficiency. With your help, though, we won’t stop there. The challenge is the need is outgrowing our programs. We recognize we need to expand our Empowerment Programming into Kent County. Sussex will be quick to follow. We are planning an expansion in our Transitional Housing program to meet the needs of those who are exiting incarceration and have nowhere to go. We are trying to double the space of our Clothing Bank. We are more than doubling our School Uniform Program to ensure we are helping with the cost of clothing for children. We are committed to ending the vicious cycle of debtor’s prison. And we will continue to advocate for what’s right. But we can only do these things with your help.
Our community needs you more than ever – we have to stop the collateral damage affecting so many. We hope you will join us in fighting back.
To view the HUD and NLIHC reports click the links below:
NLIHC Report: https://nlihc.org/gap/state/de