Family Promise of Southern Delaware works behind the scenes to help families at risk of homelessness. According to Executive Director Carolyn Ames Kelly, the group assisted 127 families with 155 adults and 288 children in 2022.
“People feel afraid and ashamed, so we really don’t now how many are homeless, but they are all around us,” she said. “The trauma that comes with homelessness is what we are trying to keep them from reaching.”
For the third year, Family Promise sponsored Night Without a Bed to raise awareness of homelessness in the area. This year’s event took place Oct. 6 at American Legion Post 28 in Long Neck.
Families, volunteers and board members slept out overnight into Oct. 7, including some who slept in their cars.
Family Promise focuses on prevention by providing funds and support to families facing eviction. It provides assistance with rental payments, utility bills, security deposits and first month’s rent to keep families out of shelters.
Staff also help homeless families seek housing, which is a struggle in Sussex County because of the demand and cost of apartments, Kelly said during an event last year.
The number of homeless in Delaware more than doubled from 2020 to 2022, and the number of homeless families with children tripled between 2021 and 2022.
Kelly said there are no family shelters in Sussex or Kent counties, so homeless families are forced to either go to a shelter in New Castle County or live in their cars, tents or occasionally hotel rooms.
Cape Henlopen School District homeless student liaison Shawna Steinman said there are more than 100 homeless students in the district, with a large number at the high school. Her program helps provide free school breakfasts and lunches, as well as sending food home for the weekends. It also provides transportation to keep students in the same schools.
Family Promise works with the Cape, Seaford and Indian River school districts and their liaisons. For more information or to make a donation, go to familypromisesouthernde.org or phone 302-278-0020.