Finding a solution for housing the homeless in Sussex County has taken a major step forward.
The nonprofit Springboard Collaborative and First State Community Action Agency in Georgetown have signed an agreement for the creation of a temporary Pallet shelter village on a 1-acre site behind the agency off North Railroad Avenue.
Pallet, based in Everett, Wash., is one of the nation's leaders in construction of rapid shelters.
Under the agreement, Springboard will lease the site to construct 44 Pallet shelters and accompanying service buildings to house up to 60 homeless people. Two bathroom facilities are also included in the plans. The lease covers a two-year pilot program with options for two renewals.
In November, Georgetown Town Council voted unanimously to support the village project.
First State and Springboard have also signed a memorandum of understanding to coordinate wrap-around services to village residents.
The Georgetown project will serve as the first demonstration village in Delaware. “As the town seat of Sussex County, we are pleased to serve as a model for the rest of our county and state,” said Georgetown Town Manager Gene Dvornick.
The Pallet shelters are 64-square-foot prefab cabins with beds, electricity, heat and air-conditioning units. The Pallet units are used by 63 other communities nationwide to provide temporary housing for the homeless. The only other East Coast village is in Boston, Mass.
According to Jud Malone, Springboard's executive director, research shows the majority of those receiving assistance find employment and live independently within six months, which is the average stay for most residents.
First State is among several local and regional service agencies being asked to provide services – including housing assistance, healthcare and job placement – to village participants. “There is not only a need to provide interim shelter for the homeless, but also a need to provide the full range of care associated with homelessness and a need to find long-term housing,” said Bernice Edwards, First State executive director.
Malone said community outreach has found that more than 50 people are living in unfit conditions in the Georgetown area, including a tent village near the Springboard project.
“Among those we have spoken with, there is a significant interest and desire to participate in the planned village,” Malone said.
Malone said the new village should be ready to accept residents this fall, as the organization continues to solicit funding for one-time capital costs and operational expenses for the first two years.
Springboard is also negotiating with Conley's Church off Route 24 to construct another Pallet village.
Mike Rawl, principal with Horizon Philanthropic Services, said Springboard is awaiting approval of a federal American Rescue Plan Act funding request. “Once that comes through, other requests we've made for operational money should follow from foundations, banks, county ARPA funds and other sources,” he said.
Rawl said most Pallet shelter villages get start-up funding from a government source. This project is one of the few launched by a nonprofit organization.