Category Archives: Newsletters

Learn about our Transitional Housing program

Our Men’s and Women’s Transitional Housing programs are more than putting someone in a bed or offering a safe place to stay. It is a lot of intense case management, respect, and patience. Our staff walk with the residents every step of their journey while in our program and even well after they graduate. Many people think our TH programs are only for those who are suffering from substance abuse. We accept people from various residential programs such as inpatient substance abuse recovery, domestic violence shelters and, recently, human trafficking survivors.

Working with people who are survivors of human trafficking has been an incredible addition to our Women’s Transitional Housing program and made possible through a partnership with the Salvation Army’s Restoration Now program. Once a woman is approved for our TH program, we move them in and do what we do so well: offer holistic, caring, person-centered case management. These women have been through some of the worse trauma we have experienced, which is why how we work with them requires a different approach than other women in our TH program. To be prepared for this partnership, staff and I have had training and continue to take courses to earn certificates on this subject. Unfortunately, human trafficking happens everywhere and is a huge problem in our state and nationwide. I am happy to be a part of helping these survivors.

In addition to accepting human trafficking survivors, we recently built a new program for women coming out of incarceration who typically have not done any type of residential program and may need more case management than our stage one residents. This is called, “Entry Phase”. We also house domestic violence survivors from shelters. Sometimes, this means housing a parent as well as their children who have suffered significant trauma.

We find it is critical to think “outside the box” to help our residents. Our programming includes peer mentoring groups or 12 step programs, sometimes led by graduates of our program. We have a trauma group facilitated by Jewish Family Services. We have a cooking and nutrition class every week run by the University of Delaware. We have weekly Women’s and Men’s group meetings. We offer opportunities for residents to learn about various opportunities regarding certifications, career paths, and important life skills.

I chose this career path and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I have lived experience with all the different issues we address here. It is emotionally, mentally and physically challenging; and it is beyond rewarding to know we make a difference in people’s lives.

Shawn Helmick
Women’s Transitional Housing Director

A Letter from our Executive Director

Our Transitional Housing program is incredibly successful. When a person spends at least a year with us, they are 95% more likely to stay in recovery, to stay housed, and stay employed for at least 5 years than someone who’s in our program for less than 6 months. This is largely due to the loving, supportive environment we create.

There is no magical secret making this program so amazing. Though it does require the commitment of each resident and the dedication and love of our staff to make it so successful.

When someone starts in this program, they are often full of excitement because they have found an opportunity for grace, as well as fear that this new opportunity could slip away. Unfortunately, they often feel like this is their last chance of survival. Many of the residents that come to us bring a great deal of trauma. They have experienced neglect, abuse, self hate, loss, and incredible loneliness. Therefore, it is our priority to ensure every person sees the possibility of what is within themselves: they can gain control over their lives and not let their lives control them.

While in our program, we encourage the residents to take the lead in their own choices, ensuring we are tender and careful around their emotional and mental wounds, teaching what consequences may come based on their choices. It is not an easy job to let someone make their own decisions when the world can be so difficult. However, it is the most loving thing we can do. It is so important to offer guidelines, boundaries, and responsibilities – without ever disempowering someone.

Once given love, support and time, we see the incredible transformation as residents begin to overcome the greatest of pain and sorrow, and experience a better today. What makes our Transitional Housing program so successful? We spend time loving every person until they can love themselves again.

Our Transitional Housing program has been around for more than 30 years, and we have helped over 2,000 residents during that time. Throughout all this time, it has been fully supported by you: our loving, supportive community. Please consider a donation to this program through the Garden Fundraiser. It is a beautiful opportunity to honor someone you love- and support someone who needs to know they, too, are also loved.

Kim Eppehimer
Executive Director

Valerie’s Story

My name is Valerie, and I’ve been at Friendship House of Delaware now for just under a year. I was asked to make the commitment of one year in this program and to put my trust in my case manager, Shawn, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life, because it saved it.

I am an alcoholic and addict of the hopeless variety, running my life into the ground every time I pick up a drink or a mind-altering substance, and blaming everybody but me along the way. I could not see that the drugs and the alcohol were the problem, for 20+ years they were my only solution. I couldn’t hold a job, couldn’t keep a roof over my head, and couldn’t take care of my 4 children, let alone myself. I sought help dozens of times throughout my life, but I only wanted for someone else to fix the outside problems, help me get a job, a car, my kids back, and a home. It is no wonder that none of those things ever worked out and no one was able to help me. The problem was me, and if I wanted to change my life, I had to change ME.

When I arrived at Friendship House, states away from home, no family or friends to call, a load of debt and bad credit, sketchy work history, no kind of education, mental health problems, and a ton of bad habits and attitudes, I was pretty desperate.

With the guidance of Friendship House, I got to work, and I haven’t looked back. Every day, I have followed instruction and done the work on myself, on my addictions, on my mental health, work life, education, dental, credit, attitude, relationships and self care. I started to trust Shawn; she was there for me every time I stumbled across a self-imposed roadblock or hurdle. She helped me see where I went wrong by allowing me to see it for myself, offering only support and solutions, and leaving me to suffer the consequences of my own actions. Eventually I learned to trust more staff, and each one has helped me learn something about myself that was not working for me anymore, and allowing me the space to grow from it. My failures became successes. I was able to ask for help when and where I need it, and I was connected with an incredible amount of resources in this community that has helped me achieve my goals. Angie, another case manager, taught me how to talk about my feelings when I need to, and let someone in. Somehow letting go of the wheel, trusting the process and listening to guidance is helping me win this thing. I’ve put in a lot of hard work, but I could not have done it without the help of Shawn and the Friendship House staff, volunteers, and supporters. I am so grateful to this program, and I hope it shows. Thank you, Friendship House.

A Letter from our Executive Director

Next year I will celebrate ten years of employment with this amazing organization. Although the journey is often described as a marathon and not a sprint, I feel like we have been running a marathon coupled with sprints, hurdles, high jumps, long jumps (and maybe even occasional javelin or discus throwing) the past couple of years. What will next year look like? Although I can’t say for certain, one thing I know for sure is we will remain your beloved and trusted organization to help every Delawarean find their way home.
We have worked hard to set ourselves up the best we can for 2023 – a year that likely will include higher prices and bills; a year with a possible recession; a year without enough housing to meet the needs of our community. None of this is a surprise, and it won’t be easy to navigate. As we entered this year, FH has the most locations than we have ever had. We have the most donors and volunteers than any other year prior. We are breaking records of people served. And we have the most love and support to offer than ever before.
This year, you can expect the same great level of service to our community as we discern what gaps still need to be filled. You can expect us to continue to address the inequities of those who are experiencing homelessness, houselessness, or are financially struggling to make ends meet. You can expect us to keep questioning, where will we find additional housing options for our community? And you can expect us to do it with tremendous respect, grace, acceptance, compassion, and love. Please journey with us as we continue to do what we do best: unite people facing homelessness with loving, supportive communities they can call home. 
Kim, Executive Director

Saturday Morning Hospitality

During the winter months of December through February, FH opens every Saturday morning at First & Central Presbyterian Church for hospitality to create a space for people in Wilmington to visit. This makes it so FH does morning hospitality 7 days a week, as we are open year-round Sunday morning for a grab-n-go breakfast at our Wilmington Empowerment Center located at Sts. Andrew and Matthew Episcopal Church. Hospitality is an important part of our Empowerment Center programming. It includes basic things like coffee, water, and access to a bathroom. It also includes another critical item: community. Hospitality at any FH location is sometimes the only time during the day a person will feel accepted and someone is happy to see them enter the door.
To a person living on the street or at a shelter in Wilmington, there are very few options on weekends as many coffee shops and places of business are closed. Libraries and other public places are also closed in the early mornings when the temperatures are the coldest. Folks staying in a shelter often need to be out by 7:00 am. In late December and early January especially, it is still dark at 7 am – and the hour before dawn is often the coldest hour of the day. FH fills the gap by opening for coffee and breakfast, creating a brief but needed safe haven for people experiencing homelessness and houselessness.
We’re grateful for our partnership with First & Central Presbyterian Church to make this possible!
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