Delaware’s high rate of evictions is a leading contributor to the state’s homelessness crisis, according to state housing officials. Before the pandemic, the state had one of the highest eviction rates in the nation with 18,000 eviction cases filed every year.
To help reduce evictions and keep people in their homes, the Delaware State Housing Authority has launched its Housing Outreach and Stability Services program. Through this effort, DSHA selected five community organizations to receive a total of $800,000 in grants to support their existing programs to help residents dealing with housing instability.
These groups know their communities the most, said DSHA’s Kyle Jones-Bey.
“It’s established to basically effect change as far as eviction defense is concerned, but through case management. The case manager would actually work with that person to develop goals, etc., that would prevent them from being housing instable,” Jones-Bey said. “It’s going to allow us to kind of put our hand further in that neighborhood and in these neighborhoods through our partners.”
The program will fund a dedicated outreach specialist and a case manager for each partnering organization to better identify the root causes behind housing instability.
“The case manager will be able to get in deep with that person and figure out what is making them housing-unstable, and then what do we do to fix it,” he said.
It’s designed to create a one-on-one relationship, recognizing that every renter’s situation is different.
“If my housing instability is just that I don’t make enough money to pay my rent so I’m rent burdened, that’s one of them,” Jones-Bey said. “If my housing instability is that I have a mental health issue and I can’t keep a job, then that’s another issue.”
One of the grant money is NeighborGood Partners, an organization with a primary focus on Sussex and Kent county. They offer services such as affordable housing and community development, as well as housing counseling and financial coaching.
NeighborGood Partners executive director Karen Steakman defines stability as individuals feeling safe, secure, and comfortable in their own homes without having to worry about rent.
“If someone’s in a situation where it’s not safe, then we’re going to try to help them address it,” she said. “That may mean getting legal aid involved with either preventing eviction or helping them work with the landlord to make sure the improvements are made.”
Working with the landlord also entails having concrete communication, something Steakman says many people lack confidence in, which is why the organization will hold education events.
“We’ll be certainly hosting some events at the Dover Library certain days of the week, ” she said, in hopes it will help renters feel more educated and confident.