Women’s Shelter Close to Opening

local veterans at the opening ceremony on Wednesday, February 5.
local veterans at the opening ceremony on Wednesday, February 5.

By Terry Rogers

The first shelter for homeless female veterans in Delaware may be open in the next few weeks, according to Jessica Finan, Executive Director of the Home of the Brave. The new shelter, which will be housed in the former God’s Way to Recovery Transitional Shelter on Causey Avenue, will house up to eight women and children.

“We held orientation with the staff this morning,” Ms. Finan explained. “We have hired a part-time case manager for the facility, Julie “Jules” Jackson and are putting the final touches on renovations to the home.” The building has eight bedrooms and five bathrooms, only the shelter will only use bedrooms on the second floor due to the capacity limits set by the city.

The first floor of the historic home, which was the former home of Dr. Samuel M.D. Marshall, but was originally built in 1903 for John Causey, the son of Governor Peter F. Causey. John Causey served as a Delaware Congressman and died in the home in 1908. His wife, Annie, died there in 1918. Dr. Marshall and his brother, William “Wid” Marshall Jr. operated Milford’s first hospital, which their mother, Mary Louise O’Donnell Marshall was instrumental in starting in the town. There is still evidence of the grandeur of the home that existed when the Marshall’s lived there many years ago.

The first floor will now be the community area for female veterans and their family, with the formal living room to the right of the entryway serving as a television room. The formal parlor or library to the right of the entryway will house the Study Hall, an area with desks and computers for veterans to seek employment, attend classes or for children to do research for homework. The kitchen includes new appliances, and a small room off the kitchen will serve to as a food storage area, as, like many homes of the era, the kitchen is very small.

“We have had tremendous support from the community,” said Ms. Finan. “Groups and organizations sponsored individual rooms, allowing them to help us with decorative items, furniture and other details the Home of the Brave was unable to provide. The groups have had a lot of fun with this project.”

The second floor holds the four bedrooms where veterans and children will make their home. “We chose the bunk beds with the full-size futon on the bottom to allow families a place to sit together and get a little privacy,” Ms. Finan explained. “The groups that have sponsored the bedrooms have really come through for us, even making curtains for the windows.”

In several of the rooms, personal touches such as magazines on the beds, a basket with toiletries and wall decorations were evidence of the sponsors’ desire for the veterans to feel at home in the shelter. There is a small sun porch at the rear of the second floor that Ms. Finan says will be used for a quiet reading room for older children and adults. The shelter has a laundry facility on the first floor with two washers and two dryers as well.

Home of the Brave originally planned to open the women’s shelter at a home they purchased on Griffith Lake Road, but they were met with opposition from neighbors who felt the home was too far from services necessary to meet the needs of a homeless population. Ms. Finan explained that former Executive Director, Linda Boone, attended a Homeless Coalition meeting, led by Councilwoman Katrina Wilson, where she met Roger Wood, Director of God’s Way. Ms. Boone explained that the Home of the Brave had chosen to sell the building on Griffith Lake Road and were seeking a different location. Mr. Wood informed Ms. Boone that God’s Way was closing their transitional shelter on Causey Avenue and would be interested in either selling or leasing the facility.

“We signed the lease in November 2013,” said Ms. Finan. “Since that time, we have been renovating and bringing the building up to additional codes put in place since the God’s Way shelter obtained approval. Because the house was only zoned for eight residents, we can only take in a total of eight people, including children.” Ms. Finan explained that if the shelter develops a waiting list of 12 to 15 women, they may consider taking the steps with the city to increase the capacity for the home.

“Right now, we are only going to use the third floor for storage as the second floor provides us with enough bedrooms and beds for eight people,” Ms. Finan explained. “We are hoping to set up a system on the third floor so that as the women transition into permanent housing, we can supply them with the items they need to get a good start in a home or apartment.”

An Open House was held on Wednesday, February 5, and was attended by Lt. Governor Matt Denn and Speaker of the House, Peter Schwartzkopf. Ms. Finan said that anyone interested in touring the new facility should contact her at 302-424-1681 and set up an appointment.