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Lewes, Delaware
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December 26, 1997     Cape Gazette
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December 26, 1997
 

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Sussex shelter, food needs rise in the midst of plenty By Rosanne Pack While the state looks at ways to best use record surpluses from tax and permit revenues, many Delaware residents are more con- corned with basic needs such as food and shelter. Even though unemployment is down in the First State and the lo- cal economy is healthy, homeless shelters are full and charitable or- ganizations report record needs and requests. This illustration of existing need in Delaware reflects a trend that appears to be nationwide. A recent survey of major cities across the country recorded a 16 percent increase in requests for emergency food and the majority of requests are coming from fami- lies with children. Although nationally, requests for shelter are down, those in Sus- sex County are operating at capac- ity. All the beds at Casa San Fran- cisco in Milton are full, and many who do not require shelter are still coming in regularly for meals. Crisis House short-term emer- gency shelter in Georgetown is close to capacity and Northport Apartments long-term housing is full. Director of Casa San Francisco, Marion Bau, said the Milton shel- ter's 12 beds are full and when the weather takes a turn for the worse, she can expect some to come in for warm, dry space on a cot or bedroll on the floor of the dining room. She said those presently oc- cupying the 30-day shelter beds are about evenly divided between individuals and parents with chil- dren. "We do reach capacity and have to turn people away sometimes. We refer them if we know of an- other shelter with openings," Bau said. "Of course, if we have no rooms and it is a real emergency, we will put people where ever we Can." Layoffs push numbers up Bau said that some recent sea- sonal layoffs seem to have pushed the numbers up at Casa. She siia some plants close before the hoh- days and don't reopen until the end of January, and that creates a hardship for many on a fixed in- come. "! think it's a combination of things that have pushed the amount of need up," Bau said. "For one thing, rents are high. Even in Milton, and even rents for mobile homes and lot rents are high. It's too much money when a person is only making $6 or $7 an hour, and then a cut in hours hits hard." And then, there arc welfare re- form programs being phased-in in Delaware. Bau and Georgia TaJitt of Crisis House Georgetown know that the transition from straight welfare to a program that contains a work re- quirement has caused some to re- quire emergency shelter. Truitt, director of Sussex Com- munity Crisis Housing, said some of the requirements for the work- fare program create a hardship for many, particularly single mothers. "Some of the new regulations require the assistance recipient to fill out 25 job applications in a week's time," she said. "If you have a newborn, how are you go- ing to go around and get those ap- plications? Even if you are not tied down to carrying for a small baby, transportation in southern Delaware is a problem." Transportation lacking Bau agreed that the lack of pub- lic transportation, especially in rural areas such as Milton, makes the job applicalat's task more diffi- cult. "Some of our lawmakers are un- aware of how isolated a person is in southern Delaware if they do not have a car or access to public transportation," she said. "Some of these across-the-board sanc- tions mean different things to peo- ple in Milton than they do to peo- ple in Wilmington." In another example of increas- ing need, the annual Adopt-A- Family holiday program served record numbers this season. The Sussex County program provided Christmas gifts, clothing and gift certificates for 1,225 this year, al- most doubling the number of 659 in 1996. The individuals represent more than 425 families. "We definitely had more appli- cants this year," said Deborah Do- bias. "That's partly because we opened our referral system, but I also see a greater need than in years past." Dobias, Adopt-a-Fantily volun- teer coordinator for Sussex Coun- ty, echoed the words of Ban and Truitt when she referred to the ef- fects of welfare reform. "With the welfare reforms kick- ing in, many are finding it difficult to make ends meet," she sa:',l. "For some, they can manage their housing, but they were looking at nothing 1,ft o er for the hohdays. Within a few days of the dead- line for sponsoring families through Adopt-A-Family, there were more than I00 families that did not have spon,:ors. Dobias said tl-.at businesses, individuals and orgzni::ations came together and helped Adopt-A-Family serve all wqo had applied. Many received new clothing, toys and household items from the state-sponsored program, and cash donation_s were also used to buy gift cez.ificates for tbod and necessary items. Bau said that requests for emer- gency food at Casa have increased this season, and since that is an ongoing program, the shelter is seeing some repeats. Those who stay in the shelter can remain for 30 days before they must move out, and then they are restricted from returning within the same year. "In our dining room, we are feeding 40 to 50 people a day at lunch time," she said. "That is on a walk-in basis, and I'm afraid it is the only meal that many of them get a day: Our coffee pot is always on and anyone can come in and sit and have coffee and the day-old donuts that are donated to us. For some, I'm sure those donuts are breakfast, but it's better than them going without anything." Truitt said that Crisis House does not have an open lunch as Casa does, however, the center is averaging two to three a day who drop in for a meal. "We do feed whoever comes in and needs something to eat," she said. "Our shelter rooms have run from 95 percent to 100 percent full in the last few months, and even our summer occupancy was high when usually people can find someplace to stay." The directors of shelters and emergency programs admit that a combination of reasons has led to the increase in shelter and emer- gency food requests. Some of their programs include counseling and referral programs to guide people toward education and vo- cation and away from the cycle of need. Many need rooms However, their first duty is to respond to those who do not have a room to sleep in or food or mon- ey for a meal. The shelter directors said that they always appreciate cash dona- tions to sustain their programs, and donations of bedding, towels and food are also needed. Toys and books for children are also important since many of those who use the shelters are families with children. For information on the pro- grams and their needs, call Casa San Francisco, 684-8694, or Sus- sex Community Crisis Housing Services Incorporated, 856-7524. Adopt-A-Family is a nonprofit organization that is under the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, Division of State Service Centers, State Office of Volunteerism. Dobias said that volunteers from the state service centers in Sussex County gave countless hours to making the program suc- ceed this year. "We are so excited, God was good," said Dobias. "We bless all who hel!:ed us meet these needs." Kerry Kester photo Times are tough for some Colorado Timi seeks help from people driving into Re- hoboth Beach from Route 1. "I live in the woods, I'm cold, and I'm hungry," he said. "I'm just trying to keep a good attitude." Timi said he is living in some nearby woods, where he uses five sleeping bags to keep warm. He said it is difficult to find dry wood for a fire, although he is reluctant to light a fire anyway, because it could draw attention to his location. "To start a fire draws the heat, if you know what I mean," said Ti- mi. "We've got to be camouflaged out there." Timi said he is a cook and street musician by trade, but he will wait until the spring to seek a position. Waiting for two weeks to get paid, he said, is difficult, because he has need for money on a daily basis. He said he will work for cash. "People have been very kind," said Timi. Dewey opts to increase fire department contribution By Jen Ellingsworth ' From head to toe, it costs about $3,700 to outfit a firefighter, ex- plained Rehoboth Beach Volun- teer Fire Company President and First Assistant Chief Chris Quillen. Each trip to the scene of a fire costs the company approxi- mately $5,000. Quillen and Second Assistant Chief Rob Shinn were on hand at the Saturday, Dec, 12, Dewey Beach town meeting to present an informative program prior to the town's public budget workshop. For many in attendance, the pre- sentation was an eye-opener. As Shinn put on each item of fire- protective gear, which includes everything from boots, overalls, helmet and a $1,500 breathing ap- paratus, Quillen explained the costly process of suiting-up for a fire. Quillen said the company re- cently approached Dewey Beach Town Manager Bill Rutherford and Mayor Bob Frederick about increasing the amount of the town's contribution to the compa- ny. He said his efforts were met with enthusiasm and support from the town's officials. Dewey Beach commissioners voted unanimously to approve the town's 1997 contribution of $1,000 to the fire company, and to raise that amount to $5,000 for 1998. The new amount will be fi- naiized at next December's meet- ing. "We just feel that this is such avital service to our community," said Frederick. "In light of the boat fire of this past summer and fires which could occur at any time, I personally could not imag- ine a better cause to support." The Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company is a half-a-miilion- dollar-a-year business which is operated year-round, said Quillen. The overall company is made up of 50-60 members, he said, but of that amount 30 are active fire- fighters who respond to calls in areas including Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Henlopen Acres, North Shores and Angola. Quillen said the informative programs are a new endeavor that the Company is embarking on to enlighten citizens about the role of the fire company and its specific needs. "We're going out into the public to let the people know what we're doing behind the scenes and how much it costs to run a fire compa- ny," said Qui!len. "We want to let everybody know what we're all about."