Once a year, the same night every year, the Housing Alliance of Delaware (HAD) counts every person they can who is experiencing houselessness statewide. This is called the PIT Count (point in time). In order to get as complete a count as possible, HAD works with shelters, agencies and organizations statewide. Hundreds of volunteers over the course of weeks help to gather information to try and secure an accurate count. It is an impressive undertaking.
We use this data point to assess how we as a state are doing in managing houselessness in Delaware. This specifically measures unhoused folks – which is why I use the word houselessness.
HAD has released the 2022 PIT count. Not surprisingly, the number of those experiencing houselessness has more than doubled since the January 2020 count. COVID-19 has taken so much from so many people – the collateral damage alone is heartbreaking, let alone the lives lost. Our community has suffered so much pain. Fortunately, fewer lives are being lost to COVID-19, largely due to the vaccinations. But lives are still being lost. Fortunately, more people are maintaining employment and evictions have not drastically increased. But people are still not able to earn enough income to stay above their monthly expenses.
There are not enough housing options for people. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in Delaware only 34 affordable and available rental homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households (those who earn less than 30 percent of the area medium income), which is below the national average.
Add to this the cost of living – rental rates and housing costs are incredibly high. Milk, meat and gas costs are astronomical. Our community continues to suffer and the PIT count is an example of the collateral damage all around us.
We often use our Financial Assistance Program to gauge where our community is with financial health. Our Financial Assistance Program is direct financial aid to people who are about to lose their housing or it helps people make a leap back into housing. This program helps with unpaid utilities or rent. It also includes assistance for security deposit or first month’s rent. We use it to help people who have little to no income to pay off court fees, obtain their state ID or driver’s license, or certification for potential employment. It’s flexible and always available in the time of someone’s most desperate need. When COVID-19 hit in 2020, we spent more in this program than any prior year. We wrote it off as a one time thing because we had secured special grants to put people in hotels to weather the health crisis. We were wrong. In 2021, we spent almost the same as in 2020 but little to none of it was on hotel stays. It all switched to utility bills, and some rental assistance. We are halfway through 2022 and we are ahead of where we have been the past two years with financial assistance given out to our community. We have only been able to do this because of your help. You have provided incredible support to FH so we can support our community.
Clearly, there is a lot of need in our community. Join us in not accepting this increase of need as a barrier, something to be fearful of, or something we can’t do anything about. With your help, we will continue to keep our Empowerment Centers open and inviting to all. We will continue to make sure the community has access to our Clothing Bank. And we will continue to ensure those in our Transitional Housing Program maximize their resources to graduate ready for self-sufficiency. With your help, though, we won’t stop there. The challenge is the need is outgrowing our programs. We recognize we need to expand our Empowerment Programming into Kent County. Sussex will be quick to follow. We are planning an expansion in our Transitional Housing program to meet the needs of those who are exiting incarceration and have nowhere to go. We are trying to double the space of our Clothing Bank. We are more than doubling our School Uniform Program to ensure we are helping with the cost of clothing for children. We are committed to ending the vicious cycle of debtor’s prison. And we will continue to advocate for what’s right. But we can only do these things with your help.
Our community needs you more than ever – we have to stop the collateral damage affecting so many. We hope you will join us in fighting back.
To view the HUD and NLIHC reports click the links below:
NLIHC Report: https://nlihc.org/gap/state/de