County gets update on fighting veteran homelessness

The Sussex County Council this week received an update on the Mayors Challenge to end Veteran Homelessness initiative, in which Sussex County, along with the towns of Blades, Bridgeville, Georgetown, Greenwood, Seaford, as well as the State of Delaware, participated.

“We worked corporately with the Delaware State Housing Authority, the Homeless Planning Council, town officials, faith-based and non-profit service providers to create a Sussex County working group,” said Sussex County Housing Coordinator Brandy Nauman. “It was remarkable to see the network of relationships and partnerships formed because of this initiative.”

Rachel Stucker, associate director of Housing Alliance Delaware, said the national initiative was taken on by Sussex County in the beginning of 2015 and, nearly two years later, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness officially certified Delaware as having effectively ended veteran homelessness.

“When we talk about ending veteran homelessness, it doesn’t mean that no one is ever going to experience a housing crisis again — people may lose their jobs, they may have medical emergencies. Unfortunately, people may have unstable or unsafe home-life situations that they need to flee from. People are still going to have crises and experience homelessness.

“But what it means, that we’ve effectively ended veteran homelessness, is that if there is someone who has served in the armed forces who is in our communities anywhere in the state of Delaware, we have a system in place where we can identify them quickly. We have the resources in place to quickly connect them to and help them get the services and permanent housing resources that they need.”

Stucker said that, from January 2015 to January 2017, more than 450 veterans who experienced homelessness in Delaware were housed.

“As of January of this year, there were still approximately 100 veterans homeless in the state.”

She noted that 85 percent of the veterans who experienced homelessness during that period were male, adding that 22 percent of the homeless veteran population in the state during that time was housed in Sussex County.

Most homeless veterans were single adults, said Stucker, but she noted that there were families with children, as well as adult couples.

“Adult couples usually aren’t eligible for single adult shelters together. And, because they don’t have minor children, they aren’t eligible for family shelters. That population, if they don’t want to split up and go different places, can actually be very difficult to serve.”

As of May 2017, Stucker said, there were 14 veterans experiencing homelessness in Sussex County. Half were in a shelter and the other half were living outside.

“Of those, 12 are single adults and two are members of a family that has a child; nine are male and five are female. And, eight out of the 14 have a diagnosed disabling condition.”

Susan Kent, director of Love Inc. of Mid-Delmarva, a faith-based organization that helps with transitional housing, spoke of a single father of two — a veteran and former state trooper.

“It was situational homelessness, where he could not move into housing right away. It would be at least 30 days.

“Housing a single father presents a problem, because we have women and children, male, and we have female shelters. This was a unique situation,” she said, noting that, through connections through the working group, they were able to find temporary housing for the veteran and his two sons.

Stucker said a lot has been accomplished with the homeless veteran situation in the state, and she hopes to take the model and apply it to other situations.

According to the 2017 Point in Time Count, there are approximately 137 people who are homeless in Sussex County alone.

“That’s about 13.5 percent of the people who are experiencing homelessness in Delaware at any given time,” she said, adding that 11 percent of Delaware’s emergency shelter beds are in Sussex County; however, that number goes down to 8.5 percent when seasonal beds are not available.

On any given night, there are about 1,000 people experiencing homelessness in the state of Delaware, and approximately 3,000 will be in a shelter at some point throughout the year — be it an emergency shelter or a transitional shelter.

Stucker said there is still a lot of work to do but that she is happy with the work that has been done through the Mayors Challenge.

“We’re very excited about the progress that we’ve made throughout the state and in Sussex County in particular.”

Also during the May 23 council meeting, Nauman was recognized for receiving the 2017 Delaware National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) Ambassador Award for her outstanding work in the housing field.

“Brandy has been the driving force behind the County’s very successful implementation of the Neighborhood Stabilization Programs, which assisted many of the County’s low- to moderate-income households achieve the dream of home ownership,” said County Administrator Todd Lawson.

Veterans in need of transitional housing assistance may call 1-877-424-3838 (toll-free), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.