Recent demographic shifts felt by local suburban churches include an increasing number of people in need who are generally unwilling or unable to access traditional social services usually found in urban areas. For example, someone on the brink of homelessness or experiencing it for the first time who lives in suburban areas of New Castle County is not coming into Wilmington or Newark where services are most readily available. Instead, these individuals either live in severe poverty without seeking help, move from person to person in hopes of staying off the streets, or seek help from their local church who may or may not be in a position to offer assistance. Men and women under the age of 35 are strongly impacted, as studies show that 67% do not possess independent housing. Possessing no legal status in their place of residence, they can become displaced persons at a moment’s notice. In the last five years, homeless camps and suburban panhandling have grown exponentially throughout New Castle County. In addition, the heroin epidemic is devastating Americans in all social, economic and geographic boundaries. Heroin use increased 150% in the last three years and each month 15 Delawareans die of drug overdoses, mostly in New Castle County.
Friendship House is expanding our empowerment centers to reach those individuals in places where services are currently not easily accessible. Our initial targeted locations will be located in the suburban regions of Middletown/Townsend, Millcreek /Pike Creek and Fairfax /Talleyville. These regions were chosen because of their high concentration of existing Friendship House ministry partners; the willingness of several faith communities in each region to co-sponsor the pilot projects by providing donated space, volunteers and funding; and the identification of several local client populations that would benefit from empowerment center services.
To see more about this project, please read the 2015 FH Empowerment Center Plan.