Category Archives: Blog

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.

2020 Reflection

2020 will be one for our history books. As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, destruction coming from so many storms and horrendous fires, racial disparities, and tension in our community and systems it feels overwhelmingly sad and heart wrenching. I often hear the word “maddening” to describe the current state of affairs.

And yet, I cannot ignore the abundance of gifts surrounding us.

One gift is my coworkers, who showed courageous leadership ensuring Friendship House stayed open the past eight months. They displayed compassion as they handed out hundreds of cups of coffee, not once letting the danger of getting sick get in their way of showing love through their masked faces and gloved hands. They remained a team, some even remotely, to make sure every need was filled.

Another gift has been you: our loving and supportive community. We hit records this spring in personal giving and with our Highmark Walk fundraiser. We hit records in donations of food to our residents and our Empowerment Center guests. You held on to your clothing donations until we were ready to take them. We asked and you responded, again and again. You loved us and those we serve even when you couldn’t be there in person to tell us.

This year could have caused us to hunker down, protect our assets and wait out the storm. Maybe even cut back and shrink to ensure no losses. Instead, because of our loving and supportive community, we responded to the cries of help with an abundance of gifts.

When we heard the cries of our community saying they can’t afford to pay for the most necessary items, we responded by expanding our Empowerment Center services. When we heard the cries of our community saying there is not enough affordable housing, we responded by growing and changing our Transitional Housing program. When we heard the cries of students in need of school uniforms, our Clothing Bank committed to get them the clothing they desperately need. All because of you: our worshipping communities, foundations, and businesses.

Another gift this year has been the gift we receive from our guests every day. Friendship House uses Jesus as an example of how to serve others. We are reminded of his call to action: when you serve the hungry, thirsty or homeless, you serve him.

When you open your heart during the act of serving, you realize you are the one receiving the gift. When our guests come to us for assistance like a cup of coffee, a room in one of our houses, a coat on a cold night, they are giving us a gift. Their gratitude and grace lets us know we matter, too. There is a powerful gift in knowing you matter. Each of us can give that gift, regardless of where you call home.

Friendship House believes the solution to homelessness is community. True community is when there is mutual giving and receiving of each other’s gifts from God. This is at the heart of what we do. Many of the guests we are blessed to work with understand that. So much so I sometimes wonder if we are mislabeling who is experiencing homelessness.

Homelessness is stretching far and wide this year as millions are losing their savings. More than 200,000 Americans have lost their lives in less than seven months from COVID-19 related deaths and that number is rising. There is a political divide greater than anything most of us have ever experienced. And still, this year continues to provide us gifts. You may have to squint hard to see them, but they are there.

It is through this mutual giving and receiving, with grace, love and support from one another, we will all find a way home.

– Kim Eppehimer (Executive Director)

Good Luck Mary Anne!

We’re sad to announce Mary Anne Matarese’s retirement from Friendship House! During her 6 years with us, she has been such an asset to our Women’s Transitional Housing Program. Mary Anne is deeply loved by residents, volunteers and staff! We are thankful for all she’s done for FH. We will miss Mary Anne dearly and wish her well!

Code Purple Update

We are pleased to share Friendship House is committed to providing Code Purple winter shelter for New Castle County this season. Due to COVID-19, it will not be the same as previous years. We are working in collaboration with the state, county, our dedicated Code Purple partners, and many other agencies to ensure safe and effective options. We are anticipating Code Purple to include day and night-time shelter this winter. More information will be shared as we know more. #AWayHome

FH Staff Updates!

Shawn Helmick became the Director of Women’s Housing this fall. Shawn has been with FH for 10 years and is such a blessing to our Women’s Transitional Housing Program! She is hard at work holding interviews and doing weekly one-on-ones with residents.

Robin Cross moved to Middletown and is now the Manager of our MOT Empowerment Center. Robin has been holding down the fort in Middletown since it reopened in August after closing in response to COVID-19. We are grateful for the work she is doing to serve our MOT community in the midst of this global pandemic!

Cheryl Bryant became the Manager of our Clothing Bank at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. Cheryl has been critical in reopening the Clothing Bank, allowing clothing donations which follow CDC guidelines, and welcoming women back for our Job Training Program. We thank her for all the hard work she’s done these past 6 months!

Tim Keeler is now the Manager of our Wilmington Empowerment Center! Tim has been serving coffee in Wilmington throughout COVID-19, maintaining grab & go Sunday Breakfast, and has been critical in implementing procedures to see clients at WEC. He is dedicated to our Wilmington community and we’re thankful for his hard work!

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