By Terry Rogers
On Monday, January 28, 2013, Circle of Light, Inc., a non-profit corporation working to address the needs of homeless in Milford presented a workshop before Milford City Council, requesting that council assist them in developing a task force to address the homeless situation in the city. The group hopes that a task force will help raise community awareness, identify local homeless populations or those who may be at risk of becoming homeless and provide assistance to groups who are attempting to address the homeless problem in the area.
“We had our first client in 2009 and in 2010, served 31 clients,” said Rev. Deacon Dorothy Vuono, the Program Coordinator and Deacon of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware. “In 2011 we helped 54 clients, but unfortunately, in 2012, our client load rose to 111. The number is growing and it is an extreme area of concern.”
Craig Warrington, the Homeless Liaison for Milford School District stated that there are currently 141 homeless students in the district. In 2010-2011, there were 77 students, and Warrington indicated that the number is expected to rise.
“Students who live in foster care, shelters, motels or are living with other family members are considered homeless,” Warrington explained. “According to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, any student that lacks an adequate, consistent place to live is considered homeless. This act also requires that any student determined to be homeless must be provided transportation to and from the school district where they initially became homeless, regardless of where they currently reside.” For example, a student attending a Milford School District school who becomes homeless and must move in with a family member in Georgetown must be provided transportation to Milford under the homeless statute.
“One thing I want to point out is that homelessness is not the bum on the street that everyone thinks,” said Warrington. “The people I work with, that I provide school supplies or other items to on a daily basis look just like you and I.” Warrington explained that many of the students determined to be homeless in Milford reside at local motels, mostly the Traveller’s Inn and Super 8. There are no regular shelters in Milford, but there are two domestic violence shelters. In many cases, students are “doubled-up,” or living with a friend or relative while the family resolves the homeless issue.
Councilwoman Katrina Wilson, a member of the board of Circle of Light, and an administrator at the Nemours clinic in Milford, said that Milford is behind in helping the homeless population.
“I am happy to be part of this board and that we are focusing on children. Although the adult homeless issue is a problem, it is critical that we address the children that are affected. I know many people who come into my place of business that will be sleeping in their cars that night with their children,” Wilson said. “These people are afraid to say anything for risk of losing their children. We need to address this and we need to address it quickly.”
Councilman James Starling said that council needed to act on this matter immediately and requested that the City Manager, Richard Carmean, set up a meeting to get the task force started as soon as possible. When asked about the structure and organization of the task force, Bowers stated that they were hoping to develop structure and organization at an initial meeting.
“We have three group members who are willing to serve on the task force and we would like three from the council to join as well,” Vuono said. “Of course, we would want community members to join as well.
Linda Boone, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Home of the Brave, also addressed council members.
“We have lots of information that we would gladly share regarding this matter. We currently have a 15 bed men’s facility for homeless veterans, and are working to open a shelter that will house women veterans and their children,” Boone stated. “Our organization would gladly provide any assistance we can to help the task force.”
City Manager Richard Carmean agreed to contact members of Circle of Light and arrange a meeting within the week to begin work on structuring and organizing a task force.