What would you do if you woke up one morning and suddenly your bathroom was locked with a sign that said “do not enter”? And when you went to your kitchen it was also closed; everywhere you turn there are ropes closing it off, not allowing you to access food.
When Delaware and states across the nation declared a state of emergency and required places of business to shut down, this is what happened to people experiencing street level homelessness.
With little to no warning, their life lines were closed to them.
One of the things I appreciate about Friendship House is our ability to move swiftly and respond to urgent matters. This was our time to step in. Within those first few days one of our immediate calls to action was to find public bathroom access for people who were experiencing homelessness. How were they expected to not only take care of personal needs but perform the most basic request of all of us: hand washing? Within a few days, with the direct assistance of New Castle County, there were port-a-potties with hand washing stations scattered across Wilmington, Newark, and even Millcreek where there used to be access to inside bathrooms.
Knowing we had to pull back our own accessibility to people, we requested financial assistance through the Delaware Community Foundation’s strategic response to COVID-19 fund and the United Way’s Delaware Does More fund. We were awarded money from both funds to help people experiencing homelessness in Wilmington and Newark safely quarantine through hotel assistance. With their help, we were able to house over 100 people who otherwise would have remained forgotten and invisible as their world closed around them. Understanding the funding stream for these hotel vouchers was limited, our next battle was to convince the state they had to take over payment of these rooms. On our final day of funding, that happened.
In Newark, food pantries and free food services became null. We did the only thing we knew how – we stepped in. With the help of our worshiping community, and many restaurants and businesses, we have been able to feed 45 people lunch and dinner in Newark daily. For most of them we drove the food to the hotel to serve. Through our masks and gloved hands, we continued to find connections with each person.
In Wilmington, when food options became scarce, we provided a cold meal to go with the usual morning coffee. We gave out over 600 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and 1,300 hard boiled eggs weekly – fully donated by our community.
You won’t find these accomplishments from Friendship House in the news. Friendship House has a small but mighty coalition of people who care deeply and are determined to serve. We do it because we can. We do it because we want to. We do it because we are needed. We do it because every person deserves a place they can call home.
More than half of our staff remains working on site, or “on the front lines”, to ensure our guests at every location are noticed, cared for, and receive essential services. Those who could work from home continue to give and work in any way they can. Friendship House may have closed some of its physical locations – but we never closed. And as we reopen what was closed, we do so with our guests and staff safety in mind.
During this time of uncertainty and fear, you continued to be there for us. Your gifts and donations brought joy and relief to us each and every time. We are so grateful and humbled by the love and support you have bestowed upon us.
Friendship House was founded on the values and principles of Jesus of Nazareth, which include walking alongside those who are the most marginalized, without judgement. This includes anyone who is feeling isolated, scared, or lost. We continue these principles today. No matter the reason they may be experiencing homelessness, we are here for them.
Thinking back to March 12, when the state of emergency started, what was it like for you when your normal day got turned upside down?
Although we all have been in the same storm, the boats we are in are not the same. The Friendship House boat stays strong with your support as we search for other boats about to sink. We reach out to offer an oar or a new sail in order for that boat to stay afloat. The storm is not over – and there are many boats about to be plummeted by a wave. We know we can weather this storm. And with your help, we know we can help others weather the storm, too. Please, continue your prayers for our staff, guests, residents, and those who have yet found their way home. If you are able, please consider a financial donation supporting our mission.
– Kim Eppehimer (Executive Director)