Homeless village a big first step

January 17, 2023

Homelessness, once an issue Sussex County was shielded from, has made its way into our beautiful little corner of the world. In fact, it is an issue that is multiplying exponentially nationwide. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported in its 2022 Annual Homeless Assessment Report that 582,462 people were homeless on any single night in January 2022.

The New York Times, in its July 15 publication, reported that Americas homelessness problem has the makings of an acute crisis. Also, in the same article, it was reported that waitlists for shelters doubled or tripled across the nation. In the past year, it has become a more visible issue to those who reside in Sussex. An issue not so easy to ignore when it arrives at your doorstep.

Of course, there are many contributing factors such as COVID, inflation, immigration numbers, limited housing, untreated substance abuse and lack of mental health services. The fact is there are unprecedented numbers of people, including fragile populations such as the mentally ill, children and the elderly, who have nowhere to call home, in many cases through no fault of their own. The effects ripple through all areas in a community, affecting healthcare resources, social services and educational resources as well as criminal activity. These precious resources are limited.

There are many workers, paid and unpaid, who are doing as best as they can to help. They are exhausted as they attempt to provide limited resources to an ever-growing fragile population. 

Observing our little county begin to address this in a meaningful, proactive way has warmed my heart. I have resided in Sussex for the past 28 years and have grown to love our state and community. We are a community, having common interests, habitation and government. We cannot ignore our fellow human beings who are living in tents, in the woods and on the street. I was so pleased to read about the completion of the homeless village in Georgetown. It will not entirely meet our current or future needs, but it is a wonderful start. Even better yet are the multitude of services that will be incorporated into the village. 

We can be proud to have achieved this most important initiative. My hope is that this village will begin a cascade of development of similar living environments throughout the county and state. The hope will be to increase access to services that can address a multitude of problems before they become critical. One simple example is a child who receives proper treatment for a respiratory illness, thus preventing a hospital visit. That is only one example of many problems that if handled in a proactive manner can actually avoid more costly and severe outcomes.

Kudos to Sussex County and to those who put a great deal of planning and coordination into the new village. Mother Teresa said: "Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love." Way to go, Delaware! Still proud to live here!

Michele (Shelley) Stutzman


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