Homeless complain about treatment at Dover farmers’ market

DOVER — Yvonne Heisler, a volunteer for the Dover Elks Lodge No. 1903, was taken aback by the alleged actions of a representative of the Downtown Dover Partnership at the Capital City Farmers Market on Wednesday.

Many of the area’s homeless make the weekly trek to the Dover Elks’ 1903 stand at the downtown market on Loockerman Plaza, which sits between Loockerman and North streets, on Wednesdays. There they receive needed supplies and food.

However, they were allegedly forced to go out of their way to receive assistance this week.

Ms. Heisler said the homeless people she spoke to accused Farmers Market director Tina Bradbury, a representative of the DDP, of not allowing them to walk through the plaza to reach their tent, which she said has been moved farther and farther back throughout the summer.

On the other side of the issue, Ms. Heisler did say she was made aware of allegations that some of the homeless people had been occupying seats reserved for people who purchase food at the market and that some had been behaving inappropriately recently.

“I didn’t see anything [Ms. Bradbury] said took place and I cannot say it did not,” she said. “But if it was bad enough, why didn’t you just call somebody to come and take care of it? We weren’t there to create any chaos.”

Joan Cote, who was just hired as the executive director of the Downtown Dover Partnership, said she is looking forward to getting a chance to speak with all of the parties involved and coming up with a solution.

She said she discussed the issue with Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen on Thursday.

“This is literally my first full week in this job. I came completely cold into this position,” Ms. Cote said on Friday. “I am literally in the middle of writing an email and sending it to everyone involved.

“I want to sit down with all parties involved and see how it came to this because it seems like it may have been a situation that had been building over time. I just want to try to find a comfortable solution to everyone involved.”

With the Elks Lodge’s table now located at the rear of the plaza, Ms. Bradbury, while standing near Loockerman Street at the front of the plaza, allegedly told the homeless on Wednesday they had to walk down to either South State Street or South Governors Avenue and then turn onto North Street, a far more circuitous route than just walking straight through the market.

“When some of the people came to us they said they were told they had to come all the way around the block and through North Street,” Ms. Heisler said. “Some of the homeless have bad feet and health issues and basically they were told they had to walk an extra two blocks to receive supplies … and these are people who have to walk everywhere they go.

“There is one man who we recently helped receive insurance for who has a fractured foot.  For him to have had to walk all the way around to get to our booth, he probably just wouldn’t have come.”

Volunteer workers for Dover Elks 1903 said they didn’t have any problem with their location near the rear of the market.

“We’ve been there since the market started in June and we’ve been there every week,” Ms. Heisler said. “After about three or four weeks we started getting more people, and we were close to where children’s activities were taking place, so we were asked if we could move back. That was fine. We thought things were good.”

Ms. Heisler said the Elks Lodge volunteers were recently told the Farmers Market would be continuing until the middle of October.

However, she said they were approached by Ms. Bradbury on Sept. 14 and asked if they would consider coming to Loockerman Plaza on a different day so they could have the area to themselves, adding that some of the homeless were causing problems.

“We didn’t care [about coming a different day] and she said she would ask the [DDP] board if we can do that and she would get back to us, but she never did,” said Ms. Heisler. “The market presented an absolutely perfect venue for [the homeless] to come to.

“Christ Church [on State and Water Streets] has since stepped up and we will try to [have our booth] on their property, but we are still seeking permission to do it.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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