The face of rural homelessness on the Mid-Shore

From left, Sandi Wiscott, Director of Operations and Case Management for Haven Ministries, with client Edward Junior Newton. Newton used the resources through Haven Ministries Emergency Winter Shelter, Daily Thread Thrift Store, and Emergency Food Pantry to stabilize and successfully move on to safe and affordable housing on the Mid Shore.

STEVENSVILLE — Haven Ministries is currently planning a long-term housing program to be located in the Kent Island area. This long-term program will be funded by private donations made directly to Haven Ministries and will enable the organization to offer year-round services in a consistent stable environment for those experiencing housing insecurities. 

Haven Ministries is developing the program with the support of its executive board, church coalition, staff, business owners, community agencies and dedicated volunteers.

The program, structured similar to that of a landlord-tenant relationship, will include a process for individuals and families to apply for the program, pass a background check, and agree to work with a case manager to transition into permanent housing. The goal of the Housing Assistance Program is to offer comprehensive resources including education, job training, and employment opportunities to give individuals and families the opportunity to stabilize, build up their resources and successfully move on to safe and affordable housing.

According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, in order to afford a two-bedroom rental property and not spend more than 30% of their income, Maryland residents need to earn $27.52 an hour, working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year.

Research from the NLIHC also reports that 71% of extremely low-income households spend more than 50% of their income on rent and 61% of them report that they have had to make at least one sacrifice in the last three years because they are struggling to pay for housing.

For Edward Junior Newton, having a place to call home was not an issue until about seven years ago when his luck changed. Newton worked in a regular job in Delaware for 30 years, owning two houses during his lifetime and enjoying a productive life. After he started a painting business following retirement, he couldn’t find a place to rent that was affordable. Some unfortunate associations left Newton without any belongings and searching for a roof over his head. A friend let him stay in his outdoor shed over a period of seven years — that is until he suffered smoke inhalation from a stove in the shed which was not properly ventilated and nearly died.

Newton was hospitalized again later for an ulcer that developed on his ankle. This time when he was discharged from the hospital, a friend called Haven Ministries to help him get on his feet.

“I didn’t know what to do," Newton said. "It’s the worse mess I ever got into. I trusted the wrong people. I didn’t have any family to turn to. I didn’t even have a birth certificate.”

Haven Ministries emergency winter shelter offered Newton temporary housing from February through April of this year. He made some good friends while in the shelter.

Sandi Wiscott, Director of Operations and Case Management, Haven Ministries, said, “Everyone took to him. He is so kind, sweet, and quiet.” She sees people who have had bad things happen but just need to see that somebody has faith in them.

Newton’s health has improved throughout the process. He had smoked for 30 years and quit to help his ankle wound heal. Through the resources at Haven Ministries, he has gotten his Social Security benefits and Medicare insurance in place. Wiscott and the staff of Haven Ministries helped Newton find permanent housing in Caroline County. He used the resources through Haven Ministries Daily Thread Thrift Store and Emergency Food Pantry to stabilize and successfully move into his new apartment.

“He smiles a lot now,” Wiscott said. 

For more information about Haven Ministries, call 410-739-4363 or visit haven-ministries.org.

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