Legislators, officials tour Springboard Village

Open a year, homeless community continues to provide shelter, services to 40 residents
February 17, 2024

The Delaware League of Local Governments hosted a tour of the Springboard Collaborative Pallet Village for legislators and town officials Feb. 9.

The resounding message of partners in the collaborative was the need for operational funds for day-to-day expenses for the homeless shelter with 40 cabins in Georgetown.

Judson Malone of Georgetown, Springboard co-founder and executive director, said the village continues to receive some additional funding and donations, but a more sustainable funding source is needed.

“In the long term, we are asking the state to work with us and fund operations going forward,” he said.

Malone led the tour and talked about how the village came to fruition and what is planned for the future.

Start-up funding

Springboard used $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds from the Town of Georgetown to purchase the cabins. Malone said they were pre-approved for $998,000 in state ARPA Community Reinvestment Funds.

“But we had to get final approval from the U.S. Treasury, and the funds were just recently released,” he said.

Those funds will be used to build a new village community center.

A grant of $800,000 from the Longwood Foundation funded initial operating costs.

The collaborative also received $365,000 for construction costs from Preston Schell, Discover, Del-One Federal Credit Union and the Crystal Trust.

Volunteers painted each of the cabins, and several companies have provided in-kind work.

About the village

The village now has a temporary food preparation building as plans for a community center begin to take shape. The center will include a commercial kitchen, multipurpose room, classrooms, a computer lab and offices. Springboard is in the process of soliciting bids for the project.

Each self-contained shelter has its own microwave and mini-refrigerator. The day’s main meal is provided by volunteers and staff. A free store is open daily to residents.

Malone said wellness checks are conducted at least once each day, and there are at least two staff members on site at all times.

“This is a gated community. We do allow visitors, but they can’t go in the cabins,” he said.

A lot has happened over the past few months at the village. Several new prefabricated buildings have been added to provide office space for case workers and staff, a pantry, a classroom and storage.

The village has been open just over a year and has been filled to capacity every day. Malone said mostly single people live in the 40 cottages, which are on land owned by First State Community Action Agency.

Springboard pays $1,200 per month to lease the property from First State.

The cost per individual per day is about $73, which includes a private cabin, around-the-clock supervision, comprehensive care coordination and meals. Residents have access to financial training, gardening, health services and referrals.

Each cabin has electricity with heating and air conditioning. The village has bathrooms and showers for residents.

Officials on the tour

Government officials attending the tour were Sen. Russ Huxtable, D-Lewes; Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown; Rep. Jeff Hilovsky, R-Millsboro; Rep. Sophie Phillips, D-Bear; Rep. Valerie Jones Giltner, R-Georgetown; Georgetown Mayor Bill West; Milford Mayor Archie Campbell; Georgetown Police Chief Ralph Holm; and Georgetown Town Manager Gene Dvornick.

Delaware League of Local Governments Executive Director Kevin Spence coordinated the tour.

Goal is a hand up

Jeff Ronald, co-founder and board member, said it’s not only a moral duty to help those in need, but also makes good business sense.

“It’s smart to empower people who can now live in a dignified dwelling and receive wrap-around services. Our goal is to provide a hand up to help people lead successful lives,” he said.

And, he said, the program is working. He talked about people who were living in the woods who are now working to become professional chefs and trade workers.

Randall “R.L.” Hughes of Millsboro, who is Springboard Collaborative president, said for years he was looking and not seeing what was really happening in his community. Now, he said, he understands the reality of the homeless situation.

“If we do what we have always done, we should expect nothing new,” he said, referring to the village. “This is not a panacea, but we can fix one or two things and try to do better the next day.”

Hughes is a retired Delaware State Police trooper, former Georgetown chief of police, and worked at the Delaware Department of Safety & Homeland Security. He is currently Beebe Healthcare emergency management coordinator.

Dvornick played a key role in making the dream a reality.

“This is one solution to a very complicated problem. There is not reason we couldn’t have villages in other towns,” he said.

Holm said the homeless problem is not new; it’s something he has watched increase over the past 25 years. He said the village allows people to think about living and not just surviving day to day.

“I wish there were more of these villages because, at the end of the day, the homeless problem is not going away,” he said.

He said there are still people living in the woods around Georgetown.

West, who has been a strong supporter of the village and is now a board member, said, “We have to do what is right for people, and here we have a great success,” he said.

West, who visits the village frequently, said he was speaking with one resident recently who has saved enough money to look for his own place.

“There is no security in the woods. Their lives are unstable. They are happy to be here,” he added.

Residents are getting support

Of the 58 people who have left the village: 15 are permanently housed; 34 have been referred to medical providers; 33 to mental health treatment; 32 to substance abuse programs; 14 are employed and nine receive benefits; and another 25 have received financial training.

The majority of residents are male, aged 25 to 59, with 14 residents over 60 years of age.

So far, case workers have helped residents receive 15 birth certificates, 41 identification cards and seven Social Security cards.

Springboard Collaborative, based in Wilmington, is a nonprofit building dignified dwellings and communities that foster well-being for Delawareans in greatest need – those experiencing homelessness, housing insecurity and economic hardship – concurrently connecting compromised populations with community resources to build a better life.  


Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter