Most Improved Homeless Services
this was an easy one for me. the organization that truly deserves this one hands down is Rvrc of wilmington. i haven't always been a big fan of rvrc, the way they operated and the services they provided and the manner they provided it in. but over the course of the last year, particularly the last few months they have emerged as the most improved homeless services agency in wilmington and if they continue in the direction they are going they could very well emerge as the premiere homeless agency as far as essential services that they homeless need.
one of the reasons, a very important reason of the vast improvement, is the overnite shelter for the homeless that they now offer. the men's side of the shelter offers around 38 beds but could be stretched to 41 or so. the women's shelter only offers around 20 beds. but this number is a critical one. it provides 20 beds to women who had few if any options before this. unless you joined a program, committed to a months long shelter or other stipulation, there simply was no place to go if you were a woman. this shelter offers the women a safe, secure place to go every nite....every nite. it takes them off the streets, which can be particularly dangerous for women, into a safe haven where they can sleep. another reason this shelter, both for the men and women, is important is the fact that there are no qualifiers to stay overnite. you just show up, sign up and you are offered a place to sleep. there is no forced religion, no forced program, no questions, no committments. you just show up, get a bed, get off the street into a secure environment and sleep. all they ask is that you respect the other "guests" and quietly get into bed and go to sleep. there is no locking of the door at exactly a certain minute or refusing entry after a certain hour. if they have a bed available, you have a place to sleep. it is a bare bones, come as you are type of shelter. both the men's and women's shelters are near or at capacity every nite, because the homeless do not feel they are being compelled to do something they don't wish to do in order to gain some semblance of safety while they sleep. this shelter, particularly the women's was a much needed, critical piece of the homeless puzzle here in wilmington. rvrc and its ceo, allen conover, were smart enough to recognize this fact and took the action needed to fill those missing pieces. the shelter begins at 7 pm and ends at 5 am. there is no in between program or religious services or hoops to jump through, so it is possible you could actually sleep for eight or nine hours, which is impossible at the local mission where you are lucky if you get six hours of fitful sleep.
but that's not all. the day program at rvrc has shifted also. for a time during last winter and the summer it appeared the homeless were being forgotten and shifted out of the equation. but that reversed itself. with other agencies offering less day time hours or none at all, rvrc shifted back into a 7 am to 3 pm schedule where the homeless were welcome. there are computers you can use umimpeded, two or three large screen televisions and a place to sit quietly, safely and not be bothered if you choose to close your eyes and get some day rest. occassionaly they offer lunch if the weather is cold or wet. they administer delaware's version of free housing with no strings, srap. if i have a point of contention with rvrc it is this item. no, i'm not a fan of free housing, but that's not my criticism here. while i do not support free housing with no strings, if the program is available and if an agency is to administer it, it should be more coordinated, more targeted, and with possibly more people working toward the ultimate goal. from what i've seen the inner workings here are abit helter skelter and they are either under staffed or the people working on the srap side are carrying too many duties or responsibilites. the explanation of srap is often too generic, explained incorrectly and the process is redundant and too slow from beginning to end. now some of the other services that rvrc offers the homeless are lacking in quantity and quality but i do believe that is due to a lack of funding and not for wanting to be first rate.
one of the things i am very pleased with at rvrc is their process of entering into the building for the daytime and night programs. during the day you cannot enter without a "member" card. obtaining one is simple and easy. all you have to do is have some form of id and let your picture be taken. you are signed in on the computer when you enter. there is a zeo tolerance for drug use or having them with you. there is a very low level of tolerance for alcohol. any violation and you are out. this may seem a bit harsh, but it's not considering the organization is also a drug recovery and mental health recovery zone. the night program has an excellent entry procedure to ensure the safety and well being of the overnight guests. you pass thru a metal detector and you must leave everything in a plastic bag that is kept securely at the front desk. you cannot bring your personal bags into the building. they have a safe and secure storage area close to the front door where you can store your bags, backpacks or other items while you sleep. there is a near zero tolerance policy of disturbing other people who have come to get some much needed rest and respite from the cold or the dangers of the street. you can enter if you are intoxicated, but you must be respectful, quiet and just go to sleep.
rvrc has an excellent outreach program. they are on the streets of wilmington and new castle county 7 days a week. they go early and stay late. they are the most comprehensive outreach team i have seen in wilmington. they are out there. i see them every day. they are good at identifying and targeting the homeless in a way that is nonobtrusive. they are friendly and try diligently to offer the services that rvrc has to people who are known to sleep on the streets. they are also good at identying newly homeless people so they can "intervene" quickly in their circumstances.
the peer program at rvrc is another reason i will give it high marks. although peer programs have both their good and bad sides, rvrc does give the opportunity to addicts, alcoholics and those who are successfully dealing with mental health issues an opportunity to gain employment with the organization. while other organizations claim to offer this, few do. those who do have a very low percentage of people working for them that are peers. rvrc on the other hand has a very high percentage and if i'm not mistaken, the majority of the people employed by rvrc are true peers that have succeeded in recovery. to be fair, some relapse and lose their jobs. but rvrc will often give these individuals a second chance if they deal with their relapse successfullyl.
yes, all in all, rvrc is the most improved homeless program in wilmington. though they are multifaceted and are not just a homeless agency, they are at the moment the most diversified and perhaps the best overall program when it comes to what the homeless truly need on a daily basis. they are versatile, have many resources that the homeless can use on a daily. basic, common sense services. they are open 7 days a week and offer basic services to the homeless that most agencies do not truly offer.
so there it is. for the year 2016 i give rvrc the most improved and overall the best homeless agency in wilmington. i would give them a certificate or award but this will have to do. my next entry will be the least improved agency in wilmington and some of the in between agencies.
see you around town