Wilmington DE Families Struggle to Find Homes

In early September, the remnants of Hurricane Ida, a deadly and destructive Category 4 Atlantic hurricane, wreaked havoc on 10 city blocks in Wilmington, DE. The storm caused the Brandywine Creek to flood to historic levels, a natural disaster that displaced hundreds of individuals and families living in high-poverty neighborhoods and impacting primarily people of color. Claymont Street Apartments, a 23-unit affordable housing development, is located at 1300 16th Street in Wilmington, a neighborhood hardest hit by the floods.

Connections Community Support Programs, a Delaware based nonprofit organization that provided supportive housing services for people with special needs, recently filed bankruptcy, leaving behind dozens of vulnerable residents living in properties owned and managed by Connections, including Claymont Street Apartments. As limited partner, Cinnaire stepped up to take over ownership of Claymont Street Apartments shortly after Hurricane Ida devastated the development. Due to damage caused by the storm, more than 20 families, most with special needs, required immediate housing. Although Cinnaire was still in the process of taking ownership, we couldn’t stay on the sidelines when we knew there were residents struggling. We activated all our resources and with our team on the ground assisting, we were able to obtain temporary hotel lodging for all Claymont Street residents. We secured Claymont Street Apartments with fencing and 24-hour security to protect the resident’s salvageable belongings and secured storage units.

Our Asset Management team made themselves available to residents 7 days a week, often spending evenings and weekends with the residents at the hotel assisting with supportive funding documents and subsidized housing applications. Cinnaire Cares donated gift cards to provide necessities, including clothing and food, for the residents. We gave each resident their security deposit and provided generous financial support to obtain permanent housing. Our partners from HDC MidAtlantic and LNWA have worked tirelessly to seek housing options for the displaced residents. Delaware, like so many other states across the country, faces a chronic shortage of affordable housing. There are hundreds of families in Wilmington currently on waiting lists for affordable housing and facing homelessness. Homelessness in childhood is a trauma that is considered an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). ACEs are proven to have long term negative effects on children in critical areas like education, life expectancy, employment, addiction, poverty and crime. Toxic stress from ACEs can change brain development and affect such things as attention, decision-making, learning and response to stress. Removing the potential for any ACE experience, such as homelessness, can provide a longterm positive impact on children’s lives.

Although the flooding in Wilmington caused catastrophic damage, the federal government did not step in and declare a state of emergency, a decision that leaves families suffering from the fallout and challenges left behind by Hurricane Ida facing extreme hardship. A decision that has left the families from Claymont Street with no place to go.

Cinnaire provided temporary hotel lodging for all impacted residents from September 9th that continued through October 15th. All residents have been provided with moving supplies, four months of storage units and generous financial support to secure permanent housing. Our team has met with each household individually to understand specific needs and support them in their efforts, and we are working with DEHAP and Housing Opportunities of Northern Delaware to seek rental assistance and additional support. Despite our extraordinary efforts, we have yet to secure permanent, safe, and stable housing for many of the families impacted by Hurricane Ida.

It would be an understatement to say this is a difficult situation. There are no easy answers. At Cinnaire, we believe in putting people before profit. We are dedicated to improving the lives of the people we serve. Much of what we do is dependent on bringing together public and private partners to create meaningful change for vulnerable people and distressed communities. We believe it takes a village and our success in creating healthy communities relies on the strength of partnership from all sectors.

I shared the Claymont Street situation with one of our partners this week. She said you, Cinnaire, are the helpers. Where do the helpers go when they need help? This statement has stayed at the forefront as we grapple with how to best support the Claymont residents. The situation in Wilmington is dire but if we all work together, we can change the narrative of this story. We are putting out a call to action – from local and state leaders, to residents, churches, and nonprofits – to come together and find housing options for the Claymont Street Apartments residents.

We’ve proudly participated in the It’s Time Wilm DE campaign. Now more than ever, it’s Time. Time to safely get out there and support the city we love. Time to see our friends and neighbors not just succeed. Yes. It’s Time. Time to stand up for the residents from Claymont Street. Let this be our rallying cry as we come together, reach out, and raise our voices for the hundreds of individuals and families struggling to find a place to call home. Now is the time for us to show our compassion, leadership, and quick action. We have a saying at Cinnaire – it’s about the people. The Cinnaire team stands ready to work with the Wilmington community to ensure the prosperity of its residents and the health of its neighborhoods. Its time.