Despite the instability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Family Promise house in Delaware has remained opened to provide housing to those in need.
Family Promise of Delaware Executive Director and Community Minister Gwyn Stetler said that since 2009, the house has served as the county and region’s 24/7 Emergency Rapid Rehousing Referral Center, and the nonprofit works with a network of volunteers and congregations to provide shelter, meals and other services.
Stetler said that when the pandemic hit earlier this year, the organization was quick to act in order to continue offering its services during “stay at home orders for those who have no homes.”
“Without an opportunity to miss a beat, we immediately sought COVID-19 prevention consult from the Coalition for Housing and Homelessness in Ohio (COHHIO), plus the local support of the Delaware General Health District, EMA, United Way, Helpline and the Delaware County Foundation,” Stetler said, adding she began writing grant applications immediately to try and help support the organization.
Stetler said personal protective equipment (PPE) began to come in from a number of sources, including from the Ohio Housing Trust Fund and people dropping off handstitched masks. She added that over the summer, community partners — organizations like the Rotary, Kiwanis Club, the United Way, Delaware County Foundation and Delaware City Schools — all worked together to provide meals for families.
“We’ll look back and even more fully understand the whole-hearted nature of this community and regional response to the pandemic housing crisis,” Stetler said.
Family Promise now has access to up to 30 beds socially distance/spaced according to household configurations, plus some off-site options. Regular health screens and temperature checks are conducted at the house.
Stetler said that as of Tuesday, Family Promise has served 61 households in 2020, which is two more than all of 2019. She said families helped so far this year have included a family with a high school graduate, 10 women with at-risk pregnancies, and a mother who gave birth to her child in the house.
According to Stetler, 80% of households served in 2019 were from Delaware, but the house has also had families from Union, Marion, Morrow, Madison and Franklin counties.
“We want our residents to have as short of stay as possible focused on access (to) safe, affordable, attainable permanent housing options and long-term stabilization,” Stetler said. “Last year our average length of stay was 34 days. Pandemic impacts have lengthened that.”
Stetler said she expects the number of households impacted to increase as the pandemic continues and said there are a variety of ways the community can get involved through donations, volunteering, or providing leads to affordable housing.
“The gap in access to safe, affordable, attainable housing is always intense,” Stetler said. “The pandemic has heightened disparities. It has been painful to hear of patterns: racism, discrimination, and exclusion faced by some of residents, staff and community partners. Family Promise is working hard to be a solution-focused, community-builder committed to addressing and alleviating root causes collaboratively. It’s been hopeful to experience patterns of generosity. This kindness has sustained us.”
Family Promise is also looking for places for families to go from 1 to 4 p.m. throughout the week to allow for deep cleaning in the house. Community partners like Safe Harbor, the Second Ward Community Initiative, and Stratford Ecological Center have already stepped up to provide transportation and spaces to families during that time.
Anyone with ideas on spaces that can be used can contact Stetler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about donations or volunteering can be found at https://www.familypromise-delawareohio.org/.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.