Category Archives: Housing

New Housing Program

This year, FH will launch an additional housing program specifically for women who work at the Clothing Bank Creating Excellent Outcomes (CEO) Training Program and are exiting incarceration. Our Transitional Housing staff have been working hard to build this new housing program to support women like Diamond.

The program will provide housing, comprehensive case management, access to wraparound services, and a supportive, nurturing, and empowering environment. Receiving behavioral health services, attending intensive outpatient treatment programs, and fulfilling court-ordered obligations like Probation and Parole will be supported and emphasized. The program will be a precursor to our Women’s Transitional Housing Program. When the women are ready and if it’s a good fit, they can progress to our existing program to continue their pathway to self-sufficiency. FH plans to purchase an additional house specifically for this new program.

The women will remain employed at the Clothing Bank – a loving, supportive space providing flexibility with work schedules. Eventually, through our CEO Training Program, we will help them find meaningful, long-term employment. With this new housing program, we know we can provide a place Diamond and others like her can truly call home.

What Friendship House Has Done for Me

Let me start by saying I started my recovery journey in 2015. I came from New Jersey to the Salvation Army in Delaware. I had a chance to go through Friendship House in 2016 but chose a job in Virginia instead. I relapsed and came back to Delaware. I went through the Salvation Army again and then moved to Sojourners Place where again I relapsed. I went to Salvation Army for the third time and it was the charm.

I came to the Friendship House in May of 2021 and I wish I had done it back in 2016, but my counselor Paul wisely informed me that obviously I was not ready for it then. While here I have resolved issues with people I have hurt and have had a chance to sit and work on myself and life. For the first time I have money saved up so I can move forward and get my own place to live. I am very grateful for the time Friendship House has given me. I am proud to be the smile on the front of the Friendship House pamphlet and it lets me see there is a better way of living with the help & support of the people who work for Friendship House. Simply put, this program was a God send for me and an eye opener that I can be a functional member of society.

Deidra’s Story

I was lost, but found out what it feels like to happily live without drugs or a drink.

My name is Deidra and I am 43 years old. I lived in Middletown, a very small town in Delaware. I grew up in a single parent household. Although I didn’t have everything I wanted, I had a good childhood and had everything that I needed. At age 15, I had my first child. I didn’t finish school and I started hanging around the “cool” kids. I began smoking weed, which was a big mistake.

Fast forward a few years later, my mother was involved in a terrible car accident. This turned my whole world upside down. She was left paralyzed from the chest down. When she passed a year later, I fell into a very deep depression. Along with smoking weed, I was now doing crack and drinking like there was no tomorrow. I can truthfully say that I was comfortable with how I was living and did not think I had a problem. I didn’t realize it then, but I was headed toward mass self-destruction.

I slowed down on the crack and began doing pills, any kind as long as I was high. When the pills stopped working, I picked the crack back up. I also started doing heroin and let me tell you, I didn’t do one without the other. My addiction became worse and I began to lose everything. I did anything and everything to get the drugs…steal, trick, beg, and borrow. This resulted in me going to jail for 18 months.

While in jail, I completed Key-Crest drug programs. You would have thought I learned my lesson, but I ended up relapsing. This time I ended up overdosing and had to be administered Narcan, not once, but four times. When this happened, I saw the light. I decided to go to rehab. I remember reading a phrase that said, “Change I must, or die I will”.

While in rehab I made the decision to look into Friendship House, and let me tell you…I am so happy I did. I love it. The staff is wonderful, kind, loving, trustworthy, and most of all, non-judgmental. They keep me on my toes! I am learning how to take care of responsibilities such as self-care, budgeting, saving money, doctors appointments, paying bills, and everyday living. I am living life on life’s terms and I am very grateful today!

Since being at FH, I have successfully completed an intensive outpatient program. I recently landed a job, was able to start budgeting, and am saving towards my own place. I also have plans to finish my GED. My future is bright and I am on the right track!

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

The Story of My Survival

Sharon Lee Crouse is what I was named on April 17, 1975. I grew up in New Jersey with hard-working parents and two older siblings. I had a happy childhood, but as I got older, things started to change. By the age of 12, I started smoking marijuana. Although I was smoking in high school, I made sure I graduated. I had my first child, Kyla, at the age of 19 followed by my second, Ralph, at the age of 23. Soon after the birth of Ralph, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder and severe depression. I began taking prescribed medication, but it only made matters worse. I began isolating myself from my family and locking myself in my bedroom, which led to an even deeper depression.

I began self-medicating with pain pills, prescription stimulants, and cocaine. I spent more time high and in my bedroom than I spent with my family. By the age of 30, my ex-husband introduced me to crystal meth. For the next 15 years, I was in denial about my addiction. I didn’t want any help, even after numerous pleas from my children. My ex-husband played a huge role in my addiction because he was my supplier. I was so deep into my addiction that I didn’t know who I was. I went from having a functional household to having a dysfunctional household with no water, food, or electricity because of my addiction. I even used my son’s phone to set up dates with different men to support my addiction. I became suicidal and was admitted into different mental health facilities. I eventually became homeless.

January 4, 2020, was the last day I used. January 5, 2020, is the day I finally accepted help. I checked myself into a short-term rehab facility in New Jersey. By the end of January, I was transferred to a long-term facility in Wilmington and resided there until August when I graduated from the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center. I moved into Friendship House Transitional Housing on August 31, 2020, and I started as a recovering addict, eager to take back everything I had lost. My journey was not easy, but I had new realistic goals that I set for myself and a strong support system. Shawn and Danielle played a major part in my recovery. They accepted me with open arms and treated me like family. I will forever be grateful. Shawn helped me get a job at the Clothing Bank where I was introduced to Ms. Cheryl and Timeeka; both great women who motivate me even more. Not only did Timeeka train me as an employee, but she also helped me learn to love myself and know my worth. Ms. Cheryl always keeps a positive attitude that I grew to love and she saw my potential long before I did. I believe everything happens for a reason and the time I spent with Shawn and Danielle brought out the best in me.

I, Sharon D’Antonio, am proud to announce that I am 15 months clean as of April 5, 2021!

Friendship House got me thriving instead of surviving! I’m enjoying every minute of it. Sometimes I wonder where I would be without the support of my children and Friendship House and then I realize I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here to share my story. My children have forgiven me and we have a great relationship. I just recently started thanking myself because without my mistakes, addiction, and struggles, I wouldn’t have met the wonderful people in my life today.

Sharon D’Antonio

1 2 3 6