There is a quiet cry of desperation in this county. A wave of homelessness is building like a tsunami traveling almost unnoticed by most until it reaches the crisis point. It is a complicated problem, some people are homeless by choice, some are victims of a cascade of unfortunate events, some are crime victims— i.e. domestic violence, arson, theft of money, and others are victims of their own self destructive habits. The complex nature of these problems discourages many from discussing it. There is no one solution. In our county, this complacency is putting us on verge of a human crisis. Kent County has only two shelters with long waiting lists and an emergency one for frigid nights. This puts us far behind Sussex. State and federal grants are being cut. Programs, which saved people from going over edge, are dying a slow death of financial starvation.
I am seeing more working homeless and homeless families. Regulations designed to encourage better housing are discouraging affordable housing. Rising energy costs and increased housing costs are combing with stagnant wages to form an iron triangle of despair for some of our fellow citizens.
I agree with Mr. Cecil Wilson’s call for a county homeless summit. I have been calling various people in the community to do a needs assessment and even with several more to go; I am getting a disturbing picture which is as bad as or worse than my personal observations from church work and community involvement. I am convinced that we need to develop a comprehensive plan which will detail the resources needed to head off a humanitarian crisis.
We must coordinate the many existing efforts so we can bring solutions instead of mere calls for more money. We have significant private efforts which just need coordination and encouragement. It would be negligent for us to let them flounder.
The price we will pay for not addressing this issue will be increased crime, decreased tourism, and suffering fellow citizens. Let’s not let another winter pass without a commitment to see that as many families as possible face it without dread