Writer discusses Sussex homeless problem


Editor:

We desperately need a “Sussex County Vehicular and Workforce Safe Sleeping Parking Lot” for our hundreds of employed car dwellers.

Thank you, Council President Vincent, for responding to my comments at the last Sussex County Council Meeting on April 16. I appreciate the study that is now underway regarding the affordable housing crisis in Sussex County. You estimate that it will be completed by the end of the summer. We are looking forward to Dr. Lisa Sturtevant’s “YIMBY” recommendations. 

In the meantime, there are hundreds of people who are holding down jobs this summer while also camping in their cars overnight. These are Sussex Countians who are working for $20 or less an hour but can’t afford current rents or can’t find affordable places to stay. They are illegally camping in their cars out of pure desperation. I am searching for a safe and legal location where we can host our homeless “car dwellers” from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. for six months from May to November. This means an opportunity for an uninterrupted night’s rest in their cars. 

Can we use just the 3-acre corner area of your County-owned 29-acre property which is located at 22308 DuPont Boulevard in Georgetown as a temporary Safe Parking area for legal overnight “car camping?” Can we place this topic on your agenda this month? 

My team and I will walk you through the process of vetting the applicants who apply for overnight parking. We will provide the funding needed for preparing and operating the overnight parking area for a period of six months. We will provide the oversight, the portable toilets and do the daily clean-up, grass cutting and trash removal. In Sussex County, we only have 25 shelter beds to offer, yet we have thousands who are homeless in Sussex County. 

They are either roofless, homeless or precariously housed. Many are wait-listed and couch-surfing with family or friends while waiting for housing to become available. We now have two-year wait times. Even though homelessness and our housing crisis is getting worse month after month, our county said NO to more emergency shelter beds at Immanuel Shelter in Lewes. Our town said NO to more emergency shelter beds at the Crisis House in Georgetown. Can you now say YES to placing this topic on your agenda for a deeper discussion? I ask that we refer to the agenda item as the “Sussex County Vehicular and Workforce Safe Sleeping Parking Lot Proposal by Jim Martin.”

We all have a role to play because every working person in Sussex County should be able to find the stability and shelter needed to survive, strive and thrive in their employment. I think the County’s role is to provide the temporary use of their un-used County owned land to get us through the housing crisis for our working poor over the next six months while Dr. Lisa Sturtevant studies our affordable housing crisis.

Our National Day of Prayer is May 2 and I was asked to lead a prayer for our homeless. I believe that when the roof-less or homeless people knock at our door, it is actually Jesus Christ who is knocking and waiting for our hearts to respond with our caring kindness. But when we ignore the vulnerable, make them feel invisible by thinking of them as less important and by concluding that they are not worth our time and efforts, then I think we are ignoring the call of Jesus Christ.

Jim Martin, Director

The Shepherd's Office