Delaware homeless shelter gets $1.25 million boost from Bezos fund

Shelters of the Family Promise of Northern New Castle County organization. (Courtesy of Family Promise)

Shelters of the Family Promise of Northern New Castle County organization. (Courtesy of Family Promise)

The nonprofit Family Promise of Northern New Castle County will be able to house an additional 40 to 50 families per year after receiving a $1.25 million grant from the Bezos Day One Families Fund.

Family Promise has been helping diverse communities since 2010 to address the root causes of families experiencing homelessness. That includes providing a variety of services to divert families from the shelter altogether. Family Promise has four main programs, two of which based at the shelter. The other two programs are based in the community.

“A lot of shelters tend to be men only, or maybe they’re for women and children only,” said Tyler Shade, executive director at Family Promise. “We focus primarily on families with children because they often have the most challenges in finding shelter.”

Shade says his group works to help serve all Delaware families, without splitting them up.

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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos launched the “Day One Families Fund” in 2018. The fund offers yearly leadership grants to frontline groups helping families transition out of homelessness. This year, the foundation gave more than $123 million to 40 organizations across the U.S., including Delaware’s Family Promise.

“We’re honored and deeply grateful to receive this grant,” Shade said. “In Delaware, the need among families for shelter and wraparound resources continues to increase year over year.”

Shade said that in 2020, there were about 136 Delaware families experiencing homelessness on any given night. This year, that number increased to 389 families. Family Promise currently supports around 155 families per year, with 80% of all families getting help transitioning to permanent housing.

Homelessness was an issue long before COVID-19, but the pandemic has exacerbated housing insecurity. Delaware Continuum of Care’s most recent point-in-time survey revealed 2,369 people were experiencing homelessness in the state.

While the rate of homelessness continues to rise, Shade aims to ease the burden on families by constructing more housing units. Family Promise has two cottages with four rooms each, which can accommodate a family of two parents and three children. The cottage features a kitchen and a living area with couches and a computer, with one bathroom in each corner of the building.

“Over the past two years, [we’ve] been working diligently to plan for an expansion project,” he said. The Bezos grant will help those expansion plans grow.

“It’s a transformational grant,” Shade said, who added the funding may double the shelter’s size. That means a bigger building with shared living spaces and 8 to 12 family rooms.

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The extension project will be built on a central site in New Castle County, with families expected to move in by 2024.

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