Candidates at Victory Church in Dover use forum to discuss homeless problem



Former Rep. Don Blakey moderated a debate/forum that brought out four candidates to Victory Church in Dover on Wednesday night. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Former Rep. Don Blakey moderated a debate/forum that brought out four candidates to Victory Church in Dover on Wednesday night. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — Pastor Aaron Appling of Victory Church wanted his congregation and members of the city’s homeless community to hear exactly where some political candidates stand on issues that affect them.

On the other edge of the blade, Pastor Appling also wanted to give his group, which contains several homeless people, a chance to let the candidates hear from them at the church on Wednesday night.

“This was a chance for our church and members of the homeless community to see where the people who are running for office stand on issues that are important to them,” Pastor Appling said. “I believe it is important for them to know where these candidates stand with the election right around the corner.”

Incumbent Rep. Sean Lynn (Democrat) of the 31st District and his challenger Jean Dowding (Republican) took part in the two-hour discussion, as did Janice Gallagher, a Republican who is running to represent the 29th District and La Mar Gunn, a Republican who is campaigning for lieutenant governor.

Former Rep. Donald Blakey moderated the discussion, which touched on issues such as the tiny house project that Victory Church is supporting, homeless issues, abortion and several other topics.

Steve French started the program off when he asked the candidates what they could do to find a place for homeless people to stay before the weather starts to turn cold.

Rep. Lynn said the wheels are in motion on helping some of Dover’s homeless population, which Pastor Appling estimated is around 1,000 people.

“On Sept. 26th, Rebecca Martin from Code Purple called me and said we need help getting people out of the cold, winter is approaching,” Rep. Lynn said. “We want to use the facility located in Simon Circle [near downtown], the old Boys and Girls Club facility.

“We need to take this facility that isn’t being used and turn it over to a nonprofit in order to get some of these people out of the cold for winter. That progress is moving forward and we hope to have that facility to be [available] quickly to get people out of the cold.”

Ms. Dowding told the nearly 50 people assembled that action needs to be taken on finding places for the homeless to live — whether it be in tiny houses or in vacated buildings. She said people need to make decisions with their hearts and with God’s guidance.

“I know what it means to be without,” she said. “I know what poverty looks like. I’ve known it all my life. I understand the challenge of being without a place to eat, a place to sleep. Nobody should have to endure those kinds of hardships.”

Ms. Gallagher said she believes too much governmental regulation is helping to feed the homeless situation.

“We are being smothered by regulations,” said Ms. Gallagher. “As I have been out talking to everyday people, what is holding so many things back are the regulations.

“For the homeless people, and people without jobs, our community would be moving at a much quicker pace if we could get some of these regulations, not only from our state, but from the feds also, off our backs.”

Mr. Gunn was the only candidate at the forum who is seeking a statewide seat, but he stressed that he would be fighting for everyone — including the homeless — if he is elected.

“We have some serious problems and we cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result,” Mr. Gunn said. “For regular people, they say if you don’t have a seat at the table, then you’re on the menu.

“Guess what? On Nov. 8th when you elect Gunn for Lt. Governor, you will get a seat at the table. You come off the menu. I’m going to continue fighting for you. I represent all people, not just white or black, rich or poor.”

Audience member Lisa Lambert took the discussion/debate as a chance to provide her own platform for the homeless, imploring the candidates to take action and help those less fortunate.

“I care about the homeless,” she said. “You know it’s easy to talk when you’re running for a job interview. After you get the job, we’ll see what happens.

“They can’t sleep here because of building codes, but there’s no building code when you’re sleeping in a dumpster or you’re sleeping on the ground and I think common sense doesn’t grow on everybody’s tree, but they need to realize that there is no code out on the street, so let’s at least get them in a building.”

At the end of the evening, Mr. French said he was appreciative of getting the opportunity to meet the candidates.

“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I think they ought to do something for these homeless. I liked all of the candidates, to tell you the truth. I really appreciate what they’re doing but we think they need to do more for these people.”

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