Homeless services expand in Felton

A new facility for homeless men is up and running in Felton due to the collaborative efforts of diverse groups within the Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing organization.

“A Jew and a Muslim and a Christian walked into a hotel and worked out a deal,” Jeanine Kleimo joked with a crowd of supporters before they cut the ribbon at the new Interfaith Crossing homeless shelter Monday, July 1.

The facility, located along North DuPont Highway, was a community project that will serve single, homeless men in the area, she added.
“This was the result of a labor of love from many, many people,” Ms. Kleimo, chair of the Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing, said. “These men face challenges most of us will never face and fortunately will never experience. . . I love them and I’m very proud of you guys.”

The building itself was previously a motel which was later turned into a worship and community center for the Islamic Society of Delaware. When they moved to a larger location in Dover, the organization knew they needed to help repurpose the building they came to love.

“For over 10 years, we used this facility as a center for community. When we thought of our own diversity. . . it made sense to continue that spirit of community wellness,” Dr. Sobia Choudhry of the Islamic Society of Delaware and the Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing Board said.

Declining several offers before settling with the service organization, leaders within the Islamic Society of Delaware though the partnership was in the best interest of the community. With love in their hearts, others joined in the effort to offer more housing for the homeless men. “I didn’t make a list… It would take me a long time to recite it if I had. This is something that has been built with love and volunteerism,” Ms. Kleimo said.

The path to homelessness is different for everyone, Kent County Levy Court Commissioner Jody Sweeney added, but many arrive to the same end result due to medical needs, job loss or family situations like divorce.

“There’s many reasons people fall into homelessness and a lot of ways we can help get them out,” he said. “In December, there were only 91 beds available in Kent County for a population of 400 homeless people. . . We need an understanding public who is not going to protest every time someone tries to build a facility like this.”
Inside the facility, men will have private rooms with bathrooms and a community space with a kitchen, laundry facilities and other amenities to help get them by as they transition out of homelessness.

John Berry, a former homeless shelter resident himself, is now a resident manager for Interfaith Crossing, maintaining the facility and helping the men through their transitions.

“Helping my guys is my number one. It means everything. They have a play to call their own now. Coming from the shelters is not easy whatsoever. You find yourself helpless and hopeless. Then, you get to a place like Dover Interfaith and they rebuild you,” he said.

Like other staff members and volunteers within the organization, Mr. Berry often finds himself going above and beyond for the men in their facilities. He will make meals, take them to appointments or help them get the services they need to succeed.

“Somebody has to do it. Who else is going to,” he asked. “My personal life could fall apart, but those guys… sometimes they rely on me for a meal or a bar of soap. I can’t fail them.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., was also present for the grand opening and met some of the residents and staff members, like Mr. Berry. He called the effort to open Interfaith Crossing “the Delaware way.”

“Delaware is defined by the letter C. It includes communicate, it includes collaborate, it includes compromise and it includes civility to get to consensus. That’s the Delaware way,” he said. “We’re all God’s creatures and we have a responsibility to reach out to each other.”

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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