Justice walk to march in Dover on Saturday

DOVER — Victory Church in Dover will be hosting a Housing Not Handcuffs Community Justice Walk Saturday morning from 10:30 to 2 p.m., starting at the Legislative Green Park. The justice walk is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and in participation with the national Housing Not Handcuffs campaign, said Victory Church’s Pastor Aaron Appling. Depending on weather, he is expecting several hundred participants.

According to their website, Housing Not Handcuffs was initiated by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless, and more than 100 participating organizations. The campaign’s mission is to develop strategies around litigation, policy, advocacy, communications and grassroots organizing in order to change local, state and federal laws and practices that are not working toward effective housing policies for the homeless.

The struggle is one that’s close to home for Victory Church. The Delaware State News reported in October that the Kent County Levy Court was poised to begin fining Victory Church $100 or more a day for a household camper the county claimed was illegally being used on the church’s premises.

The church had been keeping the camper on their property to temporarily house impoverished people as they seek more permanent accommodations. Back in October, 21-year-old Alexis Simms was living in the camper along with her 2 1/2-year-old daughter and mother. Ms. Simms is blind, has lupus and was pregnant at the time.

Since then, conditions have improved for Ms. Simms and she will be making an appearance at the justice walk on Saturday.

“She had her baby and has been housed in an apartment for over two months now — everything is going better for her,” said Mr. Appling. “She’s going to be speaking about her situation at the event and will be advocating for others.”

The church is now housing a new person in need of assistance in their camper, said Mr. Appling. They have also sought pro bono legal representation in their dispute with the county.

“According to the lawyer representing us, the county fined us while we actually weren’t breaking any laws,” he said. “They dropped the fine, but now they’re trying to change the law so they can fine us. We’re in the process of fighting that.”

Although for the church, the justice walk is a chance to advocate for their main issue — affordable housing for the homeless — Mr. Appling said that it’s a chance for local groups and individuals to speak out against any type of injustice. This is inspired by MLK’s famous quote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail that said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Among speakers and presenters will be Chief Coker of the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware, a Nanticoke Tribe representative, co-chair of Delaware Hispanic affairs, the Housing Not Handcuffs national director and Lt. Gov.-Elect Bethany Hall Long.

“Bethany Hall Long will be speaking about the Homeless Bill of Rights she presented to the legislature last session,” said Mr. Appling. “It’s going to be voted on this upcoming session.”

The justice walk, mustering at 10:30 a.m. on the Legislative Green will make its way down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and loop back up Loockerman Street in front of the library, making occasional stops to read and reflect on several MLK quotes.

Immediately after the justice walk, the public is invited to a meet and greet at Victory Church. The church is located at 2736 Forrest Ave. in Dover. For questions about the event, email cvcwalk2017@gmail.com or call (302) 450-6036 or (302) 385-6230.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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