Category Archives: Housing

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

Good Luck Mary Anne!

We’re sad to announce Mary Anne Matarese’s retirement from Friendship House! During her 6 years with us, she has been such an asset to our Women’s Transitional Housing Program. Mary Anne is deeply loved by residents, volunteers and staff! We are thankful for all she’s done for FH. We will miss Mary Anne dearly and wish her well!

Restaurants Open in Wilmington for Takeout and Delivery

Bring a meal to Andrew’s Place or Epiphany House? Consider ordering takeout for delivery from one of the following. Bring a meal and support a local restaurant at the same time!

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop $ (302) 571-8929

Yatz’s Subs & Steaks $ (302) 658-6659 Closed Sun

Rocco Italian Grill & Sports Bar $$ (302) 384-6052

Kid Shalleen’s $$ (302) 658-4600 Closed Mon

Grotto Pizza $$ (302) 777-3278 

3 Stars Pizza $ (302) 994-1717

Hong Kong Chinese Food $ (302) 656-1018

Mrs Robino’s restaurant $$ (302) 652-9223

Iron Hill Wilmington $$ (302) 472-2739

Catherine Rooney’s Irish Pub & Restaurant $$ (302) 654-9700

WiLDWiCH $ (302) 654-0500 Closed Sun

The Chicken Spot $ (302) 358-2381 Closed Sat & Sun

El Toro Take Out $ (302) 777-4417 Closed Mon

Southeast Kitchen $ (302) 691-7728

Chelsea Tavern $$ (302) 482-3333

Ristorante Attilio $$ (302) 428-0909 Closed Mon

Gallucio’s Restaurant $ (302) 655-3689

Gianni’s Pizza $ (302) 654-5331

Bangkok House Thai Restaurant $$ (302) 654-8555 Closed Mon

Boston Market $ (302) 652-0765

Cosmos Restaurant $ (302) 994-0920

Ubon Thai kitchen and bar $$ (302) 656-1706 Closed Sun & Mon

Island Fin Poke $$ (302) 654-8793

Cafe Verdi $$ (302) 656-5411

Walt’s flavor crisp chicken $ (302) 658-1803

El Mana Restaurant $ (302) 482-3239 Closed Sun & Mon

Just To Serve You DE $$ (302) 888-1100 Closed Mon

Grapes Real Jamaican Cuisine $ (302) 654-6000 Closed Sun

#GiftCardChallenge

With all Delaware restaurants only serving take-out until further notice, many small businesses have a hard road ahead of them. Delaware State Chamber posted the #GiftCardChallenge to support local business during the coronavirus (See post). If you’re interested in supporting a local restaurant and which to donate a gift card to a local non-profit, please consider Friendship House. As many of you know, we have wonderful volunteers who bring dinner to both our women’s and men’s Transitional Houses each night. This meal means our residents can focus on their recovery without having to worry about preparing a meal at the end of the day. This meal also means residents are able to sit and eat in community together. Friendship House has begun to take precautions when it comes to these dinners and instilled backup plans to ensure these meals continue without putting volunteers, staff, and residents at risk. A gift card donation to a local restaurant would keep our volunteers at home, reducing their risk of exposure and support a local business.

Gift cards can be emailed to info@friendshiphousede.org or mailed to PO Box 1517 Wilmington, DE 19899.

For more information about our Transitional Housing program, click here.

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