The hotel-turned-homeless-shelter in New Castle began taking its first referrals through the state last week.
The New Castle County Hope Center’s first residents arrived almost three weeks ago.
They were people who’d previously been living outside who entered the shelter through the cold-weather Code Purple system coordinated by Friendship House.
The Hope Center took its first few referrals through the State Service Centers’ hotel and motel voucher program last week. They included individuals and families in New Castle County.
Rachel Stucker is the executive director of Housing Alliance Delaware, which runs the centralized shelter intake hotline for the state. She says her staff has been inundated with calls from people looking to stay at the Hope Center.
“I think that this speaks greatly to the need for safe sheltering accommodations this winter, especially the safety that hotel-type sheltering provides for folks during COVID-19,” Stucker said.
But callers to the hotline cannot simply ask to be placed in the Hope Center.
People experiencing homelessness can call 1-833-FIND-BED to get help finding shelter. Housing Alliance Delaware checks for space in congregate shelters first, and if there’s no room or the caller is at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, the caller will be referred to the State Service Centers’ hotel and motel voucher program.
From there, they could be placed in one of the hotels, motels or non-profit shelters the state works with—or in the Hope Center, if the caller most recently lived in New Castle County.
Renée Beaman, director of the State Service Centers, says clients will be referred to the Hope Center based on an assessment of their needs.
“Families will probably do much better since we’re getting the school districts involved, and many of our other locations do not have that ability to have possibly a virtual learning space,” Beaman said. “[Also] individuals who may need more support as far as the bridge clinic for behavioral health.”
The hotel meets residents’ need for day and night time shelter, as well as transportation, food and social services. The state’s mental health and substance use bridge clinic is at the hotel 24/7.
Beaman says she is “extremely excited” about the additional shelter capacity the Hope Center provides.
“I can hardly contain myself,” she said. “Just the awareness of having an additional— there’s 187 rooms [total] that are available there. We continue to have the challenge of more homeless individuals or those at risk for homelessness versus the amount of locations and safe placements available.”
Beaman says the state will ramp up referrals to the Hope Center slowly — and will likely fill all of the roughly 100 rooms not used for Code Purple by February.
Congregate shelters throughout the state have only about half their normal capacity this year due to COVID-19, Stucker says. There's no official measure of the people currently experiencing homelessness in Delaware until the annual point-in-time count next month, but experts estimate homelessness has increased this year because of the pandemic.