Commentary: Continuum of Care seeking to end homelessness in Delaware

Carey Casey

This is a response to an opinion piece written by Jeanine Kleimo published on Feb. 18 about U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Continuum of Care (CoC) funds in the state of Delaware. In her article, Jeanine correctly identifies the woefully inadequate supply of affordable housing in Delaware.

Approximately 25 percent of renters in Delaware are extremely low-income (ELI) households. For every 100 ELI households, only 24 affordable rental units are available. In addition, a household needs to earn $21.85/hour in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment. Delaware has the 15th highest two-bedroom “housing wage” in the country (National Low Income Housing Coalition).

Each year more than 3,500 people will sleep on the streets, in the woods, in cars, or in homeless shelters in Delaware. One out of five will be a child under the age of 18, and one out of three adults will have a diagnosed disability of some kind. HUD Continuum of Care funds are not sufficient to meet this need alone.

Most agencies in Delaware that provide lifesaving services and housing to people and families experiencing homelessness operate with limited funds from government grants. Their services would not be possible without significant support from private donors and the faith community.

Nonetheless, HUD funds are a critical resource for Delaware’s efforts to end homelessness. The most recent HUD CoC funding award of $8,249,505.00 is the largest allocation to ever be awarded to Delaware, and is one of the highest in the country per capita. Each year since 2013, Delaware’s share of these competitive funds has increased thanks to the hard work and dedication of Delaware’s homeless service providers.

This year’s award will fund 29 homeless assistance projects. These projects will provide a total of 568 units of housing for approximately 900 people. Most of the housing units are already in existence, and these funds allow them to continue to operate. Three of the projects are new, and will provide more than 50 additional units of housing to the homeless.

CoC funds support transitional housing projects, which provide temporary housing and services to individuals and families. CoC funds also support rapid re-housing programs in Delaware. Rapid re-housing ends homelessness for people and families by helping them find rental housing in the community, pay for housing with temporary financial assistance, and stay in housing by providing services that focus on increasing their household incomes.

Rapid re-housing in Delaware has an 80 percent success rate, with a vast majority of participants successfully stabilizing in housing. CoC funds also support permanent supportive housing programs. These programs provide housing and services to homeless people and families with disabilities. More than 90 percent of households served by permanent supportive housing will not return to homelessness.

As of 2018, 100 beds of CoC-funded permanent supportive housing were located in Kent County, and another 150 beds were located in Sussex County. The rest, approximately 60 percent of the permanent supportive housing inventory, was in New Castle County. Overall, these units closely align with the rates of homelessness by county. Each year 60 to 65 percent of people who experience homelessness in Delaware are in New Castle County, 20 to 25 percent are in Kent County and another 15 to 20 percent are in Sussex County. Additionally, since 2017 approximately 50 new units of rapid re-housing have been funded in Kent County with CoC funds.

We are proud of our many partners and pleased with our ability to expand CoC-funding throughout the state during the past few years. Nonprofit and government agencies are invited to learn about CoC funds each year at a public meeting, and are welcome to apply for these funds. However, we agree with Jeanine’s assessment that HUD CoC funds alone will not solve the problem. If we want to make a real and lasting impact on homelessness in the first state we need private foundations, philanthropic entities, state agencies, and local jurisdictions to bring strategic resources and innovative strategies to bear on the problem.

We welcome anyone with an interest in addressing homelessness in Delaware to attend a meeting of the CoC and become a member. The Delaware CoC is a statewide and broad-based coalition of organizations and individuals seeking solution to the crisis of homelessness in our communities.

The Delaware CoC meets quarterly, and is open to the public. The coalition is operated by a volunteer board of directors with administrative support offered by Housing Alliance Delaware.

In 2017, the Delaware CoC developed and published an Action Plan to End Homelessness. Since that time progress has been made towards achieving the goals of the plan, but there is much more work to be done. More information about the Delaware CoC can be found on the Housing Alliance Delaware website: https://www.housingalliancede.org/the-delaware-continuum-of-care.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Carrie Casey is board chair of Delaware Continuum of Care.

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