Shelter success now up to Immanuel

June 29, 2017

Sussex County's Board of Adjustment approved a special-use exception request allowing Faith United Methodist Church and Immanuel Shelter to construct and operate a homeless shelter in Belltown.

Immanuel plans to refurbish the vacant John Wesley United Methodist Church on the two-acre parcel between Routes 9 and 285. The shelter group also plans a new building to accommodate 18 to 24 people.

Approval came despite opposition from nearby residents who cited traffic congestion, property devaluation and safety concerns related to shelter clientele.

Board members were convinced the shelter would be operated responsibly and would generate no more traffic than the former church or a brewpub that had been approved for the site. They saw no evidence the shelter would negatively affect nearby property values; that, in particular, because of assurances from Immanuel that those seeking shelter would be vetted to make sure the facility would not become a haven for criminals or sexual offenders.

Faith in doing the right thing motivated Immanuel to seek approval. Faith in Immanuel's ability to operate a shelter that will help those in need, while not negatively affecting the surrounding community, swayed board members to give Immanuel a chance.

Major medical expenses, job loss and problems associated with addiction and the opioid abuse epidemic can knock people off their feet. While there is great wealth in Delaware's Cape Region, there are also growing ranks of those with barely two nickels to rub together. They need the community's assistance to get back on their feet. Immanuel proposes to do that through shelter and counseling.

Now the real work for Immanuel begins, not only in refurbishing the church and constructing a new facility, but most of all in demonstrating that it can operate a shelter that is neat, orderly, safe, effective and aesthetically attractive in its mission of compassion.

Crisis House in Georgetown and Casa San Francisco in Milton strengthen the fabric of their communities in responsible fashion. There's no reason why Immanuel can't do the same for its community.



  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Laura Ritter, news editor, and Dennis Forney, publisher, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, associate publisher.