by Terry Rogers
On Friday, June 7, a ribbon cutting was held for Morgan’s Place, one of three projects underway through Philadelphia Arms Town Homes in Ellendale. Founded by Dr. Bishop Major Foster, Morgan’s Place is an emergency shelter and transition shelter that will be used as part of the four phases of Dr. Foster’s organization.
“We are in a high poverty area in Ellendale,” Leah Brown, Dr. Foster’s daughter who came on board with the project last year, said. “There is a lot of drug abuse and homelessness in the area. We currently have rental units that we make available to those who are having difficulty but we knew we needed to do more. This will be part of Phase I, providing emergency shelter for those who have no place else to go. They are able to remain here for 30 days and will receive services designed to help them manage their health and nutrition as those are some of the biggest causes of homelessness in the area.”
While living in Morgan’s Place, which is named for the family that sold the land to Dr. Foster, there are shared rooms for men, women and families. The facility can accommodate a man who is raising children on his own or a woman in the same predicament. They share a bathroom and are provided three meals per day. While in the shelter, they are provided resume workshops, financial planning and nutritional guidance. There is a workout room with a bike, elliptical and treadmill.
“The second phase of the program is to move someone into transitional housing,” Brown said. “They are moved into one of our rental units where they begin paying weekly rent. They have their own room and bathroom in the rental unit. A portion of their rent is placed in escrow that is then made available when they move into temporary housing to cover the costs of security deposits, electric deposits and other costs associated with moving. They can remain in the rental units for 60 days. After that, they enter the third phase which is temporary housing which are two-bedroom apartments. At that time, they begin paying monthly rent. Throughout all the phases, they continue to receive services like resume building and budgeting. We also offer a beginner, intermediate and advanced exercise program.”
The ultimate goal of the program, Brown explained, is home-ownership. Philadelphia Arms owns property near the shelter which has been cleared for 12 townhouses that are designed for permanent housing. The organization is accepting bids now from construction companies. Those who progress through the program will be able to move into the townhouse units where they will pay rent for one or two years. They then will have the option to purchase the townhome or they can choose to purchase a home elsewhere.
“We follow them up for one year after they move into permanent housing,” Brown said. “It takes time to purchase a home, what with closing costs and being able to afford a mortgage. We also want to help them avoid getting back into the financial difficulty they were in that led to homelessness in the first place.” Philadelphia Arms and Morgan’s Place are working with many organizations, including First State Community Action, the Department of Labor and financial institutions to create the programs that will be offered to those in residence.
Brown explained that there is an intake process and those who apply are notified within 48 hours if they have been accepted. Space is limited so those who are not accepted are referred to other agencies who may be able to help them. The shelter is open for individuals and families who have found themselves homeless for whatever reason. They cannot accept anyone with a conviction for a sex offense as they are in close proximity to a daycare center.
“Right now, I am operating with a staff of six and I do plan on hiring,” Brown, who is a nurse and has a background in public health, said. “Hiring takes time and then training takes even longer, so we are spread pretty thin. We would love to have volunteers willing to work at the shelter in any capacity. Of course, our biggest issues is funding, so we always accept donations.” Brown said that they do accept items as donations, such as hygiene products, toilet paper, paper towels, laundry soap and other things that can help improve the lives of homeless families. They do not accept clothing donations as there is a clothing pantry across the street from the shelter.
The shelter has partnered with Kent Pharmacy in Milford to help people obtain prescription drugs and are trying to partner with a primary care physician in the area.
The shelter is open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Anyone who is interested in volunteering, donating or who needs assistance should call 302-503-7316. Information on services offered by Philadelphia Arms can be found at www.philadelphiaarms.org.