Category Archives: COVID-19

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)

COVID-19 Update | November 11, 2020

Friendship House has been hard at work this year ensuring safe delivery of services during this pandemic. So far, we have ensured our guests experiencing street level homelessness, who had life lines shut down when the state went on lockdown back in March, had access to the most urgent things like bathrooms, hand washing stations, food, water and even emergency shelter through hotel vouchers. During this time, we were able to give 100 people hotel rooms, serve over 20,000 meals and countless cups of coffee!

We have seen significant increases in financial assistance requests. With support from businesses and foundations we have been able to provide more than 1,000 people directly affected by COVID-19 with additional financial assistance to prevent homelessness and lack of utilities.

We have continued to provide clothing, job training and transitional housing throughout this pandemic, too. Although never easy, FH continued to find a way in connecting people facing homelessness with loving, supportive communities they can call home.

Now, we face winter. FH is committing to providing winter shelter 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. Please make sure to follow us on Facebook and sign up for our electronic newsletters for updates.

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

Covid-19 Reflection

What would you do if you woke up one morning and suddenly your bathroom was locked with a sign that said “do not enter”? And when you went to your kitchen it was also closed; everywhere you turn there are ropes closing it off, not allowing you to access food.

When Delaware and states across the nation declared a state of emergency and required places of business to shut down, this is what happened to people experiencing street level homelessness.

With little to no warning, their life lines were closed to them.

One of the things I appreciate about Friendship House is our ability to move swiftly and respond to urgent matters. This was our time to step in. Within those first few days one of our immediate calls to action was to find public bathroom access for people who were experiencing homelessness. How were they expected to not only take care of personal needs but perform the most basic request of all of us: hand washing? Within a few days, with the direct assistance of New Castle County, there were port-a-potties with hand washing stations scattered across Wilmington, Newark, and even Millcreek where there used to be access to inside bathrooms.

Knowing we had to pull back our own accessibility to people, we requested financial assistance through the Delaware Community Foundation’s strategic response to COVID-19 fund and the United Way’s Delaware Does More fund. We were awarded money from both funds to help people experiencing homelessness in Wilmington and Newark safely quarantine through hotel assistance. With their help, we were able to house over 100 people who otherwise would have remained forgotten and invisible as their world closed around them. Understanding the funding stream for these hotel vouchers was limited, our next battle was to convince the state they had to take over payment of these rooms. On our final day of funding, that happened.

In Newark, food pantries and free food services became null. We did the only thing we knew how – we stepped in. With the help of our worshiping community, and many restaurants and businesses, we have been able to feed 45 people lunch and dinner in Newark daily. For most of them we drove the food to the hotel to serve. Through our masks and gloved hands, we continued to find connections with each person.

In Wilmington, when food options became scarce, we provided a cold meal to go with the usual morning coffee. We gave out over 600 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and 1,300 hard boiled eggs weekly – fully donated by our community.

You won’t find these accomplishments from Friendship House in the news. Friendship House has a small but mighty coalition of people who care deeply and are determined to serve. We do it because we can. We do it because we want to. We do it because we are needed. We do it because every person deserves a place they can call home.

More than half of our staff remains working on site, or “on the front lines”, to ensure our guests at every location are noticed, cared for, and receive essential services. Those who could work from home continue to give and work in any way they can. Friendship House may have closed some of its physical locations – but we never closed. And as we reopen what was closed, we do so with our guests and staff safety in mind.

During this time of uncertainty and fear, you continued to be there for us. Your gifts and donations brought joy and relief to us each and every time. We are so grateful and humbled by the love and support you have bestowed upon us.

Friendship House was founded on the values and principles of Jesus of Nazareth, which include walking alongside those who are the most marginalized, without judgement. This includes anyone who is feeling isolated, scared, or lost. We continue these principles today. No matter the reason they may be experiencing homelessness, we are here for them. 

Thinking back to March 12, when the state of emergency started, what was it like for you when your normal day got turned upside down?

Although we all have been in the same storm, the boats we are in are not the same. The Friendship House boat stays strong with your support as we search for other boats about to sink. We reach out to offer an oar or a new sail in order for that boat to stay afloat. The storm is not over – and there are many boats about to be plummeted by a wave. We know we can weather this storm. And with your help, we know we can help others weather the storm, too. Please, continue your prayers for our staff, guests, residents, and those who have yet found their way home. If you are able, please consider a financial donation supporting our mission. 

Thank you.

– Kim Eppehimer (Executive Director)