Category Archives: Homeless

FH is Determined to Step In and Help

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

Will You Join Us in Fighting Back?

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:

HUD Report: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59ca9d72268b96cb977e74fd/t/6282429bd806ef23da3ffa7c/1652703901307/2022_PIT+Report_w+attachments_FINAL.pdf

NLIHC Report: https://nlihc.org/gap/state/de

Hope Center and Beyond

FH is exiting the NCC Hope Center as their Social Service Anchor. We planned to manage client services there temporarily through March 2021. As COVID-19 continued to limit resources, we agreed to stay for the remainder of the year. We are grateful to always be connected with the Hope Center, serving more than 1,000 people experiencing homelessness in its first year. As we exit the Hope Center, we are witnessing the many needs throughout our county and state and will do what we do best: fill the gaps in services for those experiencing homelessness and houselessness. From expanding our Clothing Bank’s School Uniform program to meeting the needs of a variety of residents in our Transitional Housing program to focusing on the growing needs of an increasing population of unsheltered people through our Empowerment Centers and Financial Assistance program – the need is everywhere. We are looking forward to refocusing our energy and resources on our core programming to be the best version of ourselves as we can, helping people with love and support. Thank you for all you do to make these things possible. We are forever grateful.

New Year’s Resolutions

The start of the year tends to be a time of goal setting and resolution making. Gyms fill up, new diets trend, and alcohol sales go down in support of “Dry January.” January 1st is an easy target for goal setting because people need inspiration to start something new – a “clean line” between who you were and who you want to be. Even though we are happy to say goodbye to 2021, this new year started off challenging. It seems difficult to make any other resolution than to find a way to live with COVID in our lives. At the same time, we need personal goals to find hope in a better tomorrow. Goals that help us be better versions of ourselves. However, when you are at your own personal bottom, sometimes the only goal is to get out of bed that day. Or maybe it is to scrape enough together to pay one of four overdue bills. Or even to just get through the day. We understand for those experiencing homelessness goals are required so they can stay focused and centered when everything around them feels like it’s spiraling out of control. They need hope in a better tomorrow.
There are many changes in 2022 for Friendship House – but for anyone who comes to us for help, our number one goal remains the same: ensure every person feels respect, compassion, grace, acceptance, and love as they journey back towards a loving, supportive community they can call home. 
January 1st may be a clean line for many; however, at FH, every day is a clean line for all those we serve. We are committed to being a safe place of renewal every day.
Have a New Year’s Resolution? Click here to email us!

On a Cold Night

Imagine you are outside during one of the coldest months of the year, the temperature is below freezing, the wind is whipping fast, and there is no sun to help warm your body. Now imagine you don’t have a warm home to escape to.

For people in our community experiencing homelessness, they don’t have to imagine this as this is their reality. “It’s unsafe for people to be out there when it’s so cold,” says Robin, the Manager of our MOT Empowerment Center. These individuals typically go unnoticed, they are ignored.

Not by Friendship House. FH partners with various faith communities to run our Code Purple program throughout New Castle County. Code Purple gives individuals experiencing street-level houselessness a warm and safe place to stay overnight when the temperatures are too dangerous to be outside.

“It’s just not safe. We give them a place to feel welcomed. To feel seen and not forgotten,” Robin added.

Long time Newark Code Purple volunteer, Tom, spoke about his experience, “Code Purple has been a gateway to getting to know the homeless folk. I’ve developed some terrific relationships, friendships.” Robin mentioned a conversation she had with a client who frequents our Code Purple’s, “in all the places he’s traveled through he said he’s never felt this type of hospitality or love.”

Code Purple is a life-saving program. FH does this with help from our loving, supportive community. “Our community has really pulled together,” Robin said. Tom was right in saying, “it takes all kinds of people to make this thing work. We can’t do it alone.”

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