Newark Housing Ministry, Inc. was incorporated on March 6, 1984 by a group of clergy and church outreach workers who wanted to respond to an unmet need for shelter for the homeless in their community. The name of the agency was changed to Homeward Bound, Inc. in 1990 to avoid confusion with the Newark Housing Authority and to clearly identify it as nonsectarian. Initially Federal Emergency Management Act funds were used to place homeless individuals and families in motels for up to one week. While this program did provide basic shelter, it did not address the root causes of homelessness.
To address the causes of homelessness, an ambitious venture was launched in November of 1985 with the purchase of a house, to be known as Emmaus House, in Newark. Staff were hired to provide counseling, training and guidance to homeless families during a rigorous thirty-day program which subsequently was modified to become a sixty-day transitional program. For the next 16 years more than 90% of the families completing this transitional program moved into permanent housing. A survey of families who had completed the program found that more than 50% of these families had remained in permanent housing. In 1988 the Emmaus House was expanded by the addition of two bedrooms, an updated kitchen, and a dining room large enough for all the residents and staff to sit down at the same time.
Between the years of 1988 and 2004 Homeward Bound, Inc. offered a thirty-day emergency program. The emergency shelter program provided a safe and supportive environment for homeless families with children. The family received food, shelter, encouragement and direction to address some of the root causes of their homelessness. Parents attended parenting class to learn positive ways to discipline and nurture children. Case managers helped families establish long term goals and define the steps needed to reach those goals. Adults with substance abuse problems were required to be active in a recovery program. Families who demonstrated motivation and ability to achieve stability were encouraged to apply to the sixty-day transitional program.
It became increasingly evident that the homeless families coming to Emmaus House had multiple problems to address. Many adult clients had a combination of substance abuse issues, a lack of education or job training, domestic violence issues, dependencies on a changing entitlement system, and came from unstable families. Even our sixty day transitional program did not provide enough time to address the root causes of homelessness in a meaningful way. Many entry level jobs with potential for advancement required evening employment. The dinner attendance and curfew requirements of the transitional program were too restrictive. We had to find a more effective ways to help our clients.
The changing needs of the homeless population, employers and social service agencies required that we become more flexible and be able to provide longer duration programs and services. We did not have the space to offer the services most needed by our clients. Bedrooms needed to be reconfigured for a family to live comfortably together for the longer periods required to address their more complex problems. Up to six family members shared one bedroom in the emergency shelter program. While this is tolerable for a thirty- or sixty-day stay, it would be too confining for a long term program. Our dining room was used for dinner, parenting class, board meetings, battered women’s support group meetings, homework and tutoring, crafts, holiday parties, card games and evening snacks. All of our clients would benefit from computer training, job readiness training, money management, credit repair, and life skills training, but we had no space available to offer these classes.
The first step toward our goal was to purchase a property contiguous to Emmaus House. We joined the two buildings and added space for staff offices, meeting rooms and classrooms. Expansion rather than relocation allowed us to maintain our close relationship with the Newark community. We wanted to remain accessible to University of Delaware student volunteers, who are enthusiastic, committed and a welcome example of a way to better your future through hard work and education. Thanks to a generous community and several grants we were able to secure the funding needed to complete the addition and expansion which doubled our capacity.
We opened an expanded Emmaus House in September 2004. The transitional program is expanded to eight months. Transitional residents meet regularly with a case manager for support and direction. Mandatory and optional classes address the following areas:
- Domestic Violence
- Money Management
- Computer Literacy
Residents in the transitional program are required to save a portion of their incomes for future housing needs, pay a portion of their incomes to Homeward Bound, Inc. for program fees, and learn money management with the balance. Each adult will be required to have full-time employment, a full-time job training/educational program, or a part-time job training program and part-time employment.
We have paid staff to monitor the door and activities at night. This means that clients are able to accept a job with whatever hours are offered. Meal preparation is made by a cook whose responsibility it is to provide a teaching component to help families plan meals, shop on a limited budget and handle food in a safe manner.
We provide a full range of services to the homeless families at Emmaus House. It is our hope that the stability learned at Emmaus House will positively impact the families served and generations to come.