Category Archives: Empowerment Center

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.”

35% increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in DE – how did this happen?

You have seen the headlines, “Delaware has seen a 35% increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the past year.” (Delaware Online article) (DPM article)

How did this happen?

This devastating increase is due to COVID-19 and our inability to understand how deeply the pandemic would affect our lives; from jobs to landlords and accessibility to services.

Let’s step back 14 months. It’s April 2020 and we are now experiencing the worst pandemic this country has ever experienced. Businesses are forced to close and people are told to shelter in place. It was bad. You were there – you remember.

This left millions of people vulnerable and fearful of how they would survive the pandemic physically, financially, and mentally. When in the midst of a crisis, it is very difficult to understand how to make the best decisions for the future. This is why we prepare contingency plans – almost every organization has one so when a crisis hits there are thoughtful protocols in place. Because when in a crisis you don’t get the luxury to stop and think.

Raise your hand if you had such protocols for this level of a pandemic? I didn’t think so. Neither did we at Friendship House. We had to think and act quickly. For us, that meant figuring out how to protect our staff while being available to one of the most vulnerable and often invisible populations: those experiencing homelessness. While we focused on this group, there were plans to help many other Americans such as stimulus checks and increased unemployment benefits. The problem with this plan is even though it supported what we would generally consider the “middle class,” it was insufficient for those living on the margins, on the brink of already losing everything. This specific group of people barely have enough resources to make it through a small crisis. Unfortunately, there was not enough support to help them through something as serious as this pandemic. They suffered exponentially.

Those who live on the margins include those who do not have a savings account to help in crises. They tend to use community resources such as food banks, libraries, and clothing closets to supplement their income. For many, they were the ones considered essential employees during the pandemic. They put their families or themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19. Some were so desperate to work even if their hours and pay shrank. Some people who fall into this category didn’t qualify for unemployment, let alone the additional unemployment benefits. For some they may make too much to qualify for state supplemental financial assistance, but not enough to cover all of their needs.

Many struggled to work as their child care ceased and school-age children were at home. In addition, some landlords were able to work around the eviction moratorium, especially for leases naturally ending. Many contracted COVID-19, lost their jobs, had extended hospital stays, and lost loved ones, too.

Fast forward to today. No wonder homelessness has increased. Those living on the edge of being ok prior to the first state of emergency announced on March 13 are now experiencing homelessness, many for the first time. They have lost their loving and supportive community as everything closed around them.

Sadly, many of them have been families which increases the number of children experiencing homelessness significantly. Families are now living in hotels paid for by the state – some have been there since last spring. They are stuck in a difficult system that is not designed for pandemics.

There’s not enough affordable housing available for these folks and there are long waiting lists for housing voucher programs. Not enough landlords are willing to accept residents who are part of state programs. At the same time, the number of people seeking housing and shelter is continuing to rise. These recent numbers as presented by the Delaware Housing Alliance should be a wake-up call (Housing Alliance press release). We, as a state and nation, were not ready for this kind of pandemic. Quite honestly, I wish we never had to be – this pandemic is heartbreaking, heart-wrenching, and unfair. But it happened, and it could happen again.

We have a tremendous amount of work to do to right the wrongs this pandemic has shown light on. And then we have more work to do in order to prepare ourselves before the next crisis occurs. Homelessness can’t be solved because crises will continue to cause people to lose their loving supportive community. However, we must find a way to lessen the impact when crises hit. There must be more viable options and fewer restrictions to get people back to stability. In addition, we must find ways to support those who are living on the margins: worthy people who are paid less than a livable wage, people who are criminalized because they are poor, people often marginalized because of their socioeconomic status or skin color (if not both).

This kind of work will take a committed, loving, supportive community. It will take collaboration and effort. It will require innovative and forward thinking. It will take courage.

We at Friendship House are committed to being part of the solution. By supporting the minimum wage of $15/hr, fighting against repercussions for people who can not afford court fines or fees, and continuing to fill the gaps where most needed, Friendship House is committed to ensuring every person has a place to call home. I hope you will join us.

Kim Eppehimer
Executive Director

Boxwood Empowerment Center

Friendship House is thrilled to announce the opening of the Boxwood Empowerment Center! This new center is located at Calvary Presbyterian Church. We’re so excited for this partnership and grateful for Calvary’s commitment to supporting our mission. We want to give a huge thank you and shout out to the United Way of Delaware and Delaware Community Foundation for the grants to make this possible. This new location will give us the opportunity to serve more people in New Castle County.

Boxwood Empowerment Center
701 S Maryland Ave Wilmington, DE 19804
(302) 384-6241