By Terry Rogers
When many homeless were displaced as a result of the Firefly Festival which was held in Dover, DE from June 17 through 22, Milford Community Center opened their doors to them, providing shelter and food for those who were living in Dover hotels paid for by various organizations. According to Rebecca Martin, Director of Code Purple, an organization that provides assistance to the homeless, many homeless receive vouchers from the American Red Cross and the state that cover the cost of a hotel while they work to get on their feet.
“When Firefly came to town, many of the hotels raised their rates so that the vouchers no longer covered the cost of those rooms,” Ms. Martin said. “That means the homeless living in those rooms must vacate until the festival is over. This also happens when NASCAR races are held and it could happen again next weekend when the Big Barrel concert is held in Dover. For Milford Community Center to step up and assist these people is amazing and their support has been phenomenal.”
Ms. Martin said that Code Purple requested donations of food, clothing and supplies for those who would be displaced as a result of the concert. She said she reached out to Rita Lancroft and Delaware Health and Human Services who stepped up and helped her coordinate everything. The state provided a DART bus for free to transport homeless people from Dover to Milford.
“Not only did they provide a bus to get them moved from Dover to Milford just for the weekend, they also helped those who have jobs in the Dover area,” Ms. Martin said. “They provided free bus passes for anyone with a job in Dover who had to get to work throughout the festival. Those who do not have jobs will remain in Milford from Thursday until Monday morning when they will return to their hotels.”
As the organizers of Firefly expected almost 100,000 people at the weekend-long concert, housing that many visitors can be difficult in a town the size of Dover. This is also true of NASCAR races who also have a large number of out-of-town visitors for their weekend-long events. Since there were only 35,000 people expected at the Big Barrel Festival the weekend of June 25 through 29, Ms. Martin said that the displacement of homeless motel residents was not as severe as it was for the other events.
“I am prepared to pull this task force together again,” Ms. Martin said. “The Smyrna National Guard are also prepared to set up air conditioned tents for any people that Milford Community Center cannot accommodate. We already run 16 shelters in Kent County and we are able to work with them as well. We will know by Monday, June 22 if Big Barrel will also be a problem.”
Ms. Martin said that by Friday, June 19, they had collected enough food and supplies to help everyone who had been displaced by the concert and had collected money to fill in where the donations did not. She said they will begin accepting donations in September for those who are displaced for the NASCAR race scheduled for early October.
“Anyone who wants to bring donations of food or supplies can take them to the Milford Community Center starting in September,” Ms. Martin said. “We are hoping that the task force can provide the same assistance than as they have for Firefly.”