Every day since early March, we have asked ourselves: how do we respond to the needs of our community without putting our staff or guests at risk of COVID-19? As an immediate response to the pandemic, we limited access to every building and stopped some of our less essential programming. We quickly got creative on how to provide needed services. As the state of emergency continued, we continued with physical distancing, wearing masks onsite at all times, and washing our hands obsessively.
During this pandemic, Friendship House has been very fortunate to keep essential personnel with full pay. We have been very fortunate that you, our loving, supportive community, has lifted us in your giving and prayers. With support from the Delaware Community Foundation and the United Way of Delaware, we have housed over 80 people living on the street by placing them in hotels to safely quarantine. We have continued to be a beacon of light in our community, even through our gloved hands and masked faces.
As our state lifts bans and begins Phase 1 of its reopening plan, what does this mean for Friendship House?
We all miss their “normal” jobs, and yet we realize we have to look ahead and be safe for ourselves and for those we serve.
Here is a summary of our next steps.
In our Transitional Housing program we are creating new interview protocols, requirements, and expectations for incoming residents. We are writing a plan of action for those entering the program, as many of the partners we turn to for resources continue to discern how and when they reopen and start offering vital resources again. We continue to keep high levels of cleaning protocols, especially as residents graduate into different stages and move to different houses. At this time, we are not allowing volunteers on site. However, we are still happily accepting your dinner donations for the residents!
Our Empowerment Centers will continue to meet emergency needs including food, clothing, and personal hygiene. Until we can ensure proper hand washing stations, a controlled environment with physical distancing and mask use of our guests, we will continue to serve from outside our walls. We are actively working on mitigating these concerns in order to provide additional resources our guests need. We believe we will have a temporary Wilmington Center available soon and we will begin offering emergency services in Middletown. At this time we are still asking for no volunteers.
We know so many of you are diligently holding onto your no longer needed or wanted clothing for our Clothing Bank! Please, hang in there a little longer. We are planning a weekly donation day at our Clothing Bank starting in June. We are working out details to ensure you and our staff are safe during this process! In the meantime, we continue to get clothing out for emergency cases. Some of our most important needs are new socks and underwear for all ages.
The Weekly Sunday Breakfast will continue to be done as it is now – coffee and breakfast to go.
We miss sitting down with our friends and sharing stories with each other. We miss the ease in which familiar faces would walk into any one of our locations without hesitation to drop off a gift or to pick one up. In a world with proper testing and vaccinations, it is our hope and prayer we can get back to that level of open hospitality. It is, after all, what we do so well. In the meantime, we will make deeply thoughtful and prayerful decisions. The Board of Directors and I will continue to make decisions that include every employee’s voice, the rules enforced by the State, and the needs of our community.
Please, continue your prayers for us and our community. Things remain very difficult for those who are experiencing or facing homelessness. People continue to face incredible pain and sadness as COVID-19 takes lives. And, please, follow the State and CDC guidelines – if not for you, then for someone you love.
As a human race we have an incredible opportunity to do good all the time. COVID-19 doesn’t stop that. Instead, it just increases our chances. So, do good today. And in that, help us to find a way home.