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