Category Archives: Homeless
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.
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.
Thank you for all you do to be part of our loving, supportive community.
Eileen Taylor came to the Friendship House Transitional Housing program after she graduated from a program at the Salvation Army in February, 2016. Struggling to remain out of her addiction and homelessness, Eileen was determined, scared and just stubborn enough to overcome every obstacle.
While employed as a job trainee at the Friendship House Clothing Bank, Eileen applied for a position at BJ’s Wholesale Club. Although the position was part-time, Eileen was thrilled to receive the job.
Eileen worked hard on herself and at her job. Her part time hours became full-time and her responsibilities began to increase. Once she graduated from our program in January, 2017, she and another graduate shared an apartment for a year. Lacking part time experienced workers at our Clothing Bank, Eileen agreed to come back to help manage the warehouse. At this point, Eileen was self-sufficient enough to rent a place of her own. She was working hard, often tired, and going strong.
Then, in November of last year, tragedy struck; tragedy accompanied by a miracle. Eileen got home from work and was relaxing when a friend called and asked if they could get together that evening. Reluctantly, Eileen pulled herself together to go out. During that evening, the building in which Eileen had an apartment burned down due to an oxygen tank explosion. If Eileen had been home, the fire department said she may not have survived since her apartment was right next to the one in which the fire started.
We were all incredibly grateful she was alive and deeply saddened she had lost all her possessions, as well as her home. Eileen was experiencing homelessness all over again. However, this time, she had a loving, supportive community to hold and uplift her.
Friendship House Board members and volunteers donated gift cards so that Eileen could buy clothing (after she had gotten what she could from the Clothing Bank). As a graduate of Women’s Housing, Eileen was welcomed back into one of the Palmer House apartments, to stay as long as necessary. Thus, she had a roof over her head; she had friends to support her; she had gifts of money to feed and clothe herself. Mostly, she had time and space to recover from the devastation and trauma. A very special gift came from Mark Aitken, a good friend and supporter of Friendship House, which covered all of Eileen’s expenses, including new furnishings, when she was able to move into her own place.
Although devastated by her loss, Eileen remained grateful to God and to the many friends who helped her. She has been in her new apartment for several months and continues to work hard at BJs. In fact, her hard work won her the Employee of the Year award from BJs!
Eileen never lost faith in God or herself during this tragedy and has regained everything she needs. Without the Friendship House community, she would truly have been lost. To all of you who support Friendship House, we gratefully say, “Thank you.”
– Kim Eppehimer (Executive Director)
“You have been treated generously, so live generously. Don’t think you have to put on a fundraising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment.”
~Matthew 10:8-9 (The Message translation)
You don’t need to believe in Jesus as anything more than a really cool guy to believe the message he shared through the writings of Matthew. It’s a similar message delivered by caring people worldwide yet falling on silent ears and buried by others full of hatred. It’s a message that says, “you are enough.” We live in a society where people are constantly told they are not good enough. They have the wrong sexual orientation. They have the wrong skin color. They worship the wrong way. They are living the wrong life or making the wrong decisions.
At Friendship House, we leave our differences at the door so we can serve God’s children with love, grace and compassion. Because it’s enough to just need help.
In August of this year, Delaware experienced the highest rate in overdose deaths from opioids than ever before. Recent reports indicate these numbers are beginning to level off nationwide. Not decrease—but not increasing either. Yet I do not feel like celebrating. Yes, a stable death rate is better than an increase. It is just not good enough.
It is time for each of us to say “enough is enough” and believe we are enough to make a difference. We are not called to do it all; we are called to do our part.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”
Friendship House is one piece of the puzzle in making an impact, yet a very important piece. Our life-changing, life-saving programs in each of our ministries are critical for someone working on living self-sufficiently; living to put the pieces of their life back together; living just to live another day.
Often we feel incapable of making a difference. All you need to do is visit us for a day and see the hundreds of impacts our amazing staff make simply by being available to someone in need. It can come in the form of saying yes to a bus ticket, helping to get an ID or birth certificate, giving away clothing after a house fire, providing sanctuary, offering motivation before a job interview, and opening our houses to let someone stay as they rebuild their life. It just takes showing up, listening, and willingness to meet someone for who they are and where they are in that moment.
I think of Friendship House as being in the business of saving lives this way: not to prevent death, but to promote living. We connect people to the love and grace of God every day simply by being there – and therefore help create a life worth living. Because hope can be enough to keep someone moving.
I think it’s fair to admit we are not always succeeding. As a society, we are failing the young man who has asked for help because his family was embarrassed about his mental illness and abandoned him. We are failing the grandmother who has custody of her grandchildren after her daughter died of an overdose and only receives a monthly minimal social security check. We are failing the men and women who live every day the best they can because they are told they are not good enough by being discarded and ignored. We are failing those who are experiencing homelessness and displacement every day.
And yet, if we are willing to show up it will be enough to move the message away from negativity and towards compassion.
You are enough. Together, we are enough.
– Kim Eppehimer (Executive Director)