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Hope Center sees impact of rental market crunch

Sophia Schmidt
Delaware Public Media

Many searching for rental housing are coming up short as rent prices surge.

Staff at New Castle County’s Hope Center are focused on helping those experiencing homelessness identify available—and affordable—units.

Delaware Public Media’s Sophia Schmidt visited the hotel-turned-homeless-shelter this week to learn more about efforts to help people caught in the rental crunch from housing locator coordinator Dana Mitchell and director of operations Nicole Waters.

Delaware Public Media’s Sophia Schmidt interviews Hope Center housing locator coordinator Dana Mitchell and director of operations Nicole Waters.

After eight months of operation, the Hope Center now focuses on setting residents up with an “exit strategy.” One piece of this—finding permanent housing—remains a challenge.

As a contractor for New Castle County, Dana Mitchell focuses on finding apartments or houses for Hope Center residents to move into. 

“I not only talk to landlords one-on-one but I’m also on various social media platforms or websites to see what is out there that is affordable, and then just being an advocate for the Hope Center guests,” she said. 

But finding affordable units can be difficult, especially in the current market. 

“There is a shortage as far as rentals across the country as well as in New Castle County,” Mitchell said. 

Mitchell works to build relationships with landlords and let them know that Hope Center residents can be good tenants, and come with a range of support services behind them. 

Nicole Waters is director of operations at the Hope Center and has worked on housing issues at the County for years. She says one thing in Hope Center residents’ favor is that they have access to many different services under one roof. 

“You have a housing locator,” she said, “and then you have the rapid rehousing person that she can pass off a unit to and can assist them with the security deposit and the rental assistance. And then you may have Friendship House that can say, you need these items and we can help you with that as well.”

This year's point-in-time count showed an increase in homelessness in Delaware during the pandemic.

Local housing experts say a primary driver of homelessness is a longstanding shortage of affordable housing in the First State. 

This story has been updated.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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