by Kim McWatters
There are a lot of homeless families in America. Delaware has them too and the problem has only gotten worse over the last few years due to the economy.
What do these families look like? Single parents that can only find part-time work, people making minimum wage, families that experience a fire and don’t have insurance, or someone who moves here for a job that falls through. Most of the homeless don’t have a support system to fall back on. There are about 6,000 homeless people in Delaware each year and 2,700 of them are children. Every public school district in Delaware has a Homeless Coordinator that serves these children. Delaware even buses these kids to their “home” districts so they aren’t uprooted.
There are a handful of non-profits in New Castle County that keep homeless families together. It’s really important to do that so they can help each other through this difficult time. Organizations that don’t serve families require men and women to be separated… teenage boys can’t stay with their moms, moms and dads are separated, and these places aren’t a good fit for single dads with young children (yes, there are many).
Family Promise of Northern New Castle County (NNCC) launched operations in March 2010, serving homeless families. The non-profit is made up of local faith congregations that provide food and shelter to families on a weekly rotation. One congregation shelters guests for seven nights, and then the families are transported to another congregation for the next seven nights. Family Promise of NNCC currently has 13 congregations that provide temporary lodging for up to fourteen guests (four families), plus eight support congregations that provide volunteers and funding. During the day, the families use Family Promise’s Day Center as their base for showers, laundry, catching the school bus, and applying for jobs and housing. Three staff members provide intensive case management and coordination with the faith congregations.
Family Promise of NNCC is holding its first Cardboard Box City event on September 30 at Hockessin United Methodist Church. Participants will sleep out in cardboard boxes all night to raise awareness to the issue of family homelessness, as well as raise funds for Family Promise. Each participant pays a $20 registration fee and is asked to raise $100 for the organization. The event will have a Soup Kitchen, where Rita Landgraf, Secretary of Health and Social Services for the State of Delaware, will be ladling out soup. U.S. Senator Chris Coons and Secretary Landgraf will be speaking at the event, and New Castle County Council President, Tom Kovach, will be attending. There will also be live performances by Ray Seemans, Lori Citro, and Kiki Marshall, as well as games and a box decorating contest.
If you’d like to attend this event or find out more about this organization, check them out at www.familypromisede.org.