COMMENTARY: Dover events displace ‘poorest among us’

No one questions the local economic boom that results from NASCAR races and summer music festivals at Dover International Speedway. They bring revenue not only to this venue, but to our restaurants, hotels, and other businesses that profit from the influx of visitors with money to spend.
Few consider what some might term the “unintended consequences” or impact on those who are displaced by these events from the motels that serve as the only homes they can afford during the other 48 weeks of the year.

We do. What happens to the mother with a 3-month-old baby and two young children who has to leave her motel room this week? Where do they sleep? How do they cook? Does anyone care?

Jeanine Kleimo

Jeanine Kleimo

Will the Dover Police be instructed to clear out the “tent cities” that arise when the poorest among us have no place to go?

We do not assert that the solution lies solely in the hands of event sponsors and local businesses. We seek in this letter to inform and advise the community that dozens of the vulnerable poor are displaced by these events and that we lack a concerted effort to bring together alternative living situations or solutions for those displaced.

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen has exhibited exceptional compassion and desire to achieve a compassionate and cost-effective strategy. He — along with the rest of us — is stymied by the multitude of regulations and other obstacles to the apparently simple solution of using unoccupied buildings or setting up regulated camping options. Neither he nor a single business venture can resolve this issue alone.

Rebecca Martin

Rebecca Martin

Many who have read this letter so far will assume that we are addressing “those people on welfare.” In fact, those with motel vouchers or other subsidized space are protected. Our concern is for the working poor like this single mother: if she works full-time and earns a modest $9 per hour, she will take home less than $360 per week.

Local motels cost an average of $365 for weekly rentals outside of race and festival weeks, leaving nothing for food, transportation, or personal

expenses. Such an individual cannot hope to save to move elsewhere. She is already one child’s sick day away from eviction and financial disaster.

Surely we might strategize with representatives of the businesses that profit from seasonal events, local officials, motel and apartment owners, and those affected to develop solutions that balance the economic benefits and their consequences.

We invite those who share our concern to make themselves known so that we might collaborate. Those we assist are among the service-industry workers needed to keep our local economy going.

Editor’s note: Jeanine Kleimo is chairwoman of the Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing. Rebecca Martin is director of Code Purple, Kent County.

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