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Posted on Jul 4 2017 in Resilient Response

Dover’s Work to End Homelessness Builds Resilience

Dover’s Work to End Homelessness Builds Resilience

 “When people start working together, red tape falls and problems get solved. As long as we keep the homeless individual at the center of each solution, we can make this work.”

Understanding that it will take time for the task force to address each of the report’s components, the first phase of transitional steps were offered, which include, but are not limited to:

» Providing storage space or lockers for personal belongings. Most homeless people must carry their possessions with them, limiting their flexibility and ease of movement.

» A daytime site other than the Dover Public Library is needed for homeless people to gather, to have someone discern their needs and willingness to accept help and provide them with information, food and guidance.

» Expand the size and hours of the existing daytime resource center at the Interfaith Mission, which is currently too small and is open only on a limited basis.

In conclusion, the panel acknowledged that finding a solution to Dover’s homelessness problem is a long-term prospect that will be challenging on many fronts, not the least of which is funding.

Abrams said that any discussion of funding cannot take place without knowing the actual costs to the community caused by homelessness. While the costs have not been tabulated, Delaware’s Continuum of Care is currently attempting to compile those costs, the report stated.

Fight to end homelessness:

Homelessness

DOVER PLANS A ROAD MAP Panel’s top priority is housing before further efforts

JERRY SMITH

THE NEWS JOURNAL, July 4, 2017

When Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen put together a 13 member panel late last year to study the issue of homelessness in the city, he wasn’t necessarily looking for an immediate solution.

He and others who are close to the issue knew there would be no quick fix to a problem that has plagued the city for years.

Rather, he wanted the panel to meet with local organizations that have been providing services to the homeless as well as homeless people to get their take on the problem. That panel presented Christiansen with its findings this week, and the top priority became clear: Find the city’s homeless population housing before fixing the underlying problems.

It is estimated that between 300 and 400 adults in the Dover area are homeless, including those residing in shelters, tents, Code Purple sanctuaries and friends’ homes, the report stated.

Convened in January, the panel first identified critical steps — identify homeless individuals, recognize current efforts, identify barriers, foster coordination among agencies and raise awareness, to name a few — that would lead to the goal of ending homelessness in the Dover area.

The panel discovered very quickly that there was no overall coordination of those efforts.

“Although the various agencies and organizations endeavor to work together, there is no recognized centralized system in place whose goal is to ensure that organizations, funding and individual and group efforts are utilized to their maximum potential,” said Dr. Jerry Abrams, the panel’s chairman.

Abrams said that given the enormity of the task of addressing the needs of the homeless population in the community, the panel was not able to claim that it discovered a magic solution.

See HOMELESSNESS, Page 9A

“Now there are teams in each county that work together to help end veteran homelessness and make Delaware one of the three states in the country that have effectively done it. When people start working together, red tape falls and problems get solved. As long as we keep the homeless individual at the center of each solution, we can make this work. That is what this report is about.”

RETIRED MAJ. WILLIAM FARLEY

MEMBER OF THE DELAWARE COMMISSION OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen talks to homeless advocates before the open forum portion of a Dover City Council meeting.

FILE PHOTO


Fight to end homelessness:

Homelessness

Continued from Page 1A

“Instead, what we have to offer is a road map, a plan which we feel will point us in the direction to which we should go,” said Abrams, who has served on the board of the Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing for four years.

The panel based its recommendations on three core values members thought were imperative:

» Housing is a basic need for sustainable life and should come first.

» All homeless persons should have equal access to services and programs.

» Family members should be housed together whenever possible.

With those values in mind, members put together a concept plan that would preserve existing shelter space, create a facility to accommodate 50 or more people on a temporary basis with services at the same site, find affordable congregate housing with single and double rooms with shared facilities, and use the current deteriorated housing stock in the city for conversion to family housing.

To get there, the panel asked the mayor to create a task force that includes decision- makers in areas such as planning and zoning, law, human services and current shelter managers.

At an open town hall meeting this week to unveil the panel’s18-page report, Christiansen told Abrams and the panel members that he would be naming a task force within seven to 14 days.

While housing the homeless is the top priority of the panel and of the task force going forward, it will be one of the most difficult tasks because of the current housing stock in Dover. Even those who are working sometimes cannot afford housing, which oftentimes leads to homelessness.

The report concluded that the typical model of garden apartments that rent in the range of $750 to $900 are too expensive for much of the working class. A worker making minimum wage for fulltime employment has a monthly income of about $1,350. Allocating the recommended 30 percent of income for housing means that an affordable rent is just over $400.

During the town hall, Fourth District Councilor Roy Sudler Jr. offered a solution, saying the city’s vacant homes could be turned into housing for the homeless. He even offered his expertise as a licensed contractor and the materials to renovate properties to help make this happen.

“I don’t think I’m alone in this either,” he said. “I’ve talked to contractors across the city who say they are willing to help by offering their labor and even materials.”

Chris Cooper, executive director of the Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity, effectively shut that notion down by telling the councilman that most vacant houses in the city are uninhabitable because of the poor conditions inside.

“Once the home is vacant, it is very hard to keep it livable for any length of time,” said Cooper, who has toured much of the city’s housing stock to find locations for Habitat housing. “You are far better off flattening them and starting all over again.

“When you walk through these homes, you have a different perspective on life and how much you need to help the community and help people when you come out the door.”

Other housing solutions have been offered in recent months, including a plan to have tiny houses on land adjacent to Victory Church on Forrest Avenue in Dover. That plan has temporarily stalled due to financial and zoning issues.

Understanding that it will take time for the task force to address each of the report’s components, the first phase of transitional steps were offered, which include, but are not limited to:

» Providing storage space or lockers for personal belongings. Most homeless people must carry their possessions with them, limiting their flexibility and ease of movement.

» A daytime site other than the Dover Public Library is needed for homeless people to gather, to have someone discern their needs and willingness to accept help and provide them with information, food and guidance.

» Expand the size and hours of the existing daytime resource center at the Interfaith Mission, which is currently too small and is open only on a limited basis.

In conclusion, the panel acknowledged that finding a solution to Dover’s homelessness problem is a long-term prospect that will be challenging on many fronts, not the least of which is funding.

Abrams said that any discussion of funding cannot take place without knowing the actual costs to the community caused by homelessness. While the costs have not been tabulated, Delaware’s Continuum of Care is currently attempting to compile those costs, the report stated.

With such a herculean task before those willing to help end homelessness in Dover, retired Maj. William Farley, a member of the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, offered guidance.

“I just want to inject a little optimism,” Farley said. “Mayor Christiansen asked me to chair his effort to end veteran homelessness beginning two years ago. That has been a very successful effort. We started out in a very similar situation to where we are at now.”

When the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness was launched in January 2014 as a call to action by then-First Lady Michelle Obama, Farley said the group was just the mayor’s welcome home team. He said that caught fire and became a county and state effort.

In Dover, nearly 100 veterans and their families have been housed to date as part of the challenge.

“Now there are teams in each county that work together to help end veteran homelessness and make Delaware one of the three states in the country that have effectively done it,” Farley said. “When people start working together, red tape falls and problems get solved. As long as we keep the homeless individual at the center of each solution, we can make this work. That is what this report is about.”

Reach Jerry Smith at jsmith17@delawareonline. com. follow him on Twitter at @JerrySmithTNJ.

Pastor Robert Appling of Victory Church in Dover says a final prayer during a September vigil in front of Dover City Hall for three homeless men who died in the fall.

JERRY SMITH/THE NEWS JOURNAL


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