Task Force sets out on mission to end Dover’s homelessness

Jeanine Kleimo, Chair of the Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — It was no great surprise when Jeanine Kleimo was voted in to serve as the chairwoman of the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force to End Homelessness in Dover on Thursday afternoon.

Ms. Kleimo, who also chairs Dover’s Interfaith Mission for Housing, has long been a voice for the estimated 300 to 400 adults in the Dover area who are considered to be homeless.

So when she was tasked with leading the Homeless Task Force at the Dover Public Library she received tons of confidence from the committee’s 20 members.

The Homeless Task Force is charged with implementing the plan prepared by the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Homelessness earlier this year.

“I’m happy to do it because I think there are a lot of good people who are willing to work,” Ms. Kleimo said, about the task force, “and that’s what I’ve found with Dover Interfaith over the years, that it’s a good thing to chair something when you have good people who can get things done.

“I want to get it done.”

Solving the homelessness problem in Dover promises to be a long and challenging journey.

Mayor Robin R. Christiansen believes he has helped to assemble the perfect team to get the job done.

“We put together a group of people who have a common interest in bringing great talent to this table and to this effort to accomplish what we’re all setting out to do,” the mayor said. “I’m sure that the implementation that this task force is going to bring forward will reflect great efforts and initiative.”

Ms. Kleimo will be working hand-in-hand with representatives from the city of Dover, Kent County, NCALL, Dover housing shelters, the Delaware State Housing Authority, state agencies, 2-1-1, and others, in trying to find those solutions.

Sue Harris, co-founder of Port of Hope Delaware Inc., a nonprofit agency that supports housing for the homeless, believes Dover has the right mix of people to get things done.

“I have a lot of confidence in the skills and the motivation of all of the people that are coming to this table,” Ms. Harris said. “There’s a lot of experience and there’s a lot of years that they’ve been working to do something for the homeless around here.

“I’m always optimistic, but as long as people are talking, then we’re moving forward. There’s a lot of work ahead.”

Dr. Jerry Abrams was pleased with the Homeless Task Force’s organizational meeting. The group plans to meet once a month in their efforts to identify a solution to homelessness in Dover.

“I think it was a very good organizational meeting,” Dr. Abrams said. “I think we’re off to a good start and I feel a lot of enthusiasm and I think we’re going to accomplish great things.

“We’ve got a lot of good ideas and a lot of people who are obviously dedicated to addressing problems and finding solutions.”

2017 homeless
numbers released

The Housing Alliance of Delaware issued its 2017 Joint Report on the cost of housing in Delaware and homelessness.

Among the highlights from the report’s executive summary:

•The total number of people who experienced homelessness according to the one-night count “Point in Time” (PIT) decreased from 1,070 in 2016 to 1,015 this year. This year’s count was conducted on Jan. 25.

•Veteran homelessness decreased for the third year in a row, with 93 veterans experiencing homelessness in the PIT count.

•A total of 24 percent of people experiencing homelessness were children under the age of 18.

•In Delaware, 29 percent of the 344,022 households are rentals.

•A two-bedroom rental at fair market rate requires a 105-hour work week, at the state minimum wage of $8.25 per hour and a one-bedroom rental requires an 86-hour work week at minimum wage rates.

Delaware’s inflated housing prices are the biggest hurdle in finding shelter for the homeless, according to Ms. Kleimo.

“The biggest thing is that there is no affordable housing,” she said. “There simply is not. We need to develop some things in a new way and we’re talking to people about how to do that.”

Ms. Harris agreed but added that it’s going to take more than just providing a house to help solve the homeless dilemma.

“Basically, what it comes down to is we need more housing,” said Ms. Harris. “We need more places for people to go when they get done being in a shelter and be able to have supportive services behind them so that they can be successful in a home, whether it’s just a room they can rent or a small house that they can move into.

“Getting some properties available that we can renovate and providing some other opportunities, I think, is going to be the trick.”

Forums to be held on Dover’s plan to address homelessness

Forums regarding the city of Dover’s plan to address homelessness will be held at the Dover Public Library on Tuesday and also on Oct. 24.

The forums, which are sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Kent County, will be held at 6 p.m. at the library on both dates.

Tuesday’s forum will share details of the plan and the proposed work of the task force.

Meanwhile, the Oct. 24 forum will focus on volunteer opportunities and community engagement in plan implementation.

Ms. Harris attended the Homeless Task Force organizational meeting on Thursday and is excited about the possibilities that lie ahead, even with the public forums.

“I’m happy to be a fly on the wall watching these good folks put this together,” she said. “I have a lot of confidence.”

The forums are free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information, contact Jeanine Kleimo at 242-0412.

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

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