Dover Interfaith sets sights on Division Street location

The Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing is closing in on plans to move from Forest Street to a property at nearby 630 W. Division St. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — The Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing is looking to move its shelter and transitional home for homeless men, along with its resource center, to a property at 630 W. Division St., just a stone’s throw away from its current site at 684 Forest St.

While the relocation of the Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing still has many hurdles to clear — the most important involving funding — it leaped over its first one when it passed a first reading of a rezoning request of the West Division Street property at a Dover City Council meeting on Oct. 26.

The 19,400-square-foot facility on West Division Street, which sits adjacent to the WestSide Car Wash, has been zoned C-3 (Service Commercial Zone) and the proposed rezoning is IO (Institutional and Office Zone), subject to the Corridor Overlay Zone.

The proposed ordinance still has to go before the Dover Planning Commission for a public hearing on Nov. 16, with another public hearing before city council set for Dec. 14, at which time the final readings and council action will likely take place.

The current owner of the property is Silver Linings Holding Corp., and the equitable owner is listed as DIMH.

Jeanine Kleimo, chairwoman of DIMH, is hoping the nonprofit will eventually be able to relocate to West Division Street by the end of 2021, bringing with it other services for people experiencing homelessness.

“There are a lot of hurdles, but I am optimistic, and I think it’s going to work,” Ms. Kleimo said. “Ideally, what we are hoping to do is purchase the building in January and renovate it so that we can move in by the end of 2021, because that’s when our (current) lease runs out.”

Jeanine Kleimo

The additional space that the new building would provide would allow for a few more shelter beds than Dover Interfaith currently has and some additional long-term housing in the same building.

“I’m kind of up to my ears with details,” said Ms. Kleimo. “Everything would be in one building. It would be great not to have to run in and out of buildings and so on.

“There is a kitchen. We own the commercial kitchen equipment that we have here at the current shelter, so we don’t have the hurdle of buying that. We can just relocate it, which is really great.”

DIMH serves around 34 men year-round and has helped more than 3,000 since the program’s inception in 2008, with more than 70% of them obtaining permanent employment in the community.

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen has said it’s a priority for the city to help find a new home for the organization, currently located at the intersection of Forest Street and Railroad Avenue in a building owned by the Dover Downtown Partnership . He estimated there are 200 to 250 homeless people in the Dover area.

The mayor said there have been serious discussions in bringing a light industrial company to the current site of Dover Interfaith, which would bring jobs to the downtown area.

“I think it’s really important for us to continue to work with Interfaith to continue their mission of helping the homeless move to permanent housing and jobs and just to be taken off the street and deal with the issues that they have to deal with,” Mayor Christiansen said. “I think we have a responsibility to participate in their relocation effort because we, as the Downtown Partnership and the city of Dover, granted them a lease for the initial property.

“I think it’s only fair for us to help find them a new place. Their lease ends in 2020, but there are provisions for it to be extended for a year. At this point we’d really like to have something in place and the sooner the better – so all parties know what’s going to happen.”

Dover City Councilman Fred Neil acknowledged that Dover Interfaith provides a remarkable service to people in need in the capital city and surrounding areas.

“The DIMH serves an important function wherever they might be located,” Mr. Neil said. “Their efforts are the essence of humanity, helping those who need help in order to help themselves to become independent and self-supporting. That benefits everyone in the state, not just Dover. Human nature is such, not everyone that DIMH tries to serve succeeds.

“I view DIMH as a regional facility that can be located anywhere in Kent County. As the capital city, Dover is a hub. Finding a good location is very difficult because the building must meet the needs of the population it serves, while not being out of character with the neighborhood where it is located.

“The Dover Downtown Partnership, particularly Mike Harrington, worked diligently to find a building that was not only appropriate, but could be used to expand services of DIMH.”

Mr. Harrington informed the board of the DDP at a meeting in June that the West Division Street property is under contract with a deposit of $10,000. The purchase price is estimated to be around $1.2 million and DIMH needs to come up with $750,000 as a down payment.

He added that per the contract, the seller is willing to hold a $750,000 mortgage at 5% for 30 years.

DIMH may also be able to lease a portion of the property to related service providers to help cover building fees.

In order to make the down payment, Ms. Kleimo has been busy applying for grants and planning fundraisers – which is difficult to do during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have a wonderful relationship with NCALL and also with the Delaware State Housing Authority, so we’re fortunate with those two,” she said. “Then, of course we are applying for five grant proposals during October and then I have three or four more on the near-term horizon this month to finish. Believe me, there’s lots to do.”

Councilman Neil said the city of Dover cannot put a number on how valuable the services that Dover Interfaith bring to the community.

“The relocation also means the heart of the downtown Dover area regains a property that could be put to good economic use to increase the tax base of the city,” he said. “The move checks off all of the boxes of the potential of expanded services for the homeless population, in an appropriate area, adding to the taxable base in downtown Dover.”