Many displaced people find refuge under Delaware’s Winter Street Bridge, on park benches behind local businesses, within local parks, and, if they are really lucky, they can camp temporarily with a friend on a spare couch, which is often called “couch surfing.”
Winter is particularly difficult for single homeless men when they have to sleep on the icy, cold, hard ground.
If the temperature plunges below zero, the Delaware Community Center YMCA will open its doors to provide an emergency shelter for one night. During the past brutally cold winter of 2015, several men huddled for warmth under the appropriately named Winter Street Bridge in frigid weather.
Many of the men who live on the streets with no support system stick together. “Many of these men would give the shirt on their backs if you asked them to,” said Steven Carl, a Delaware local. in his experience living on the streets, he found a community. When one person makes a little cash, they often buy food to share, knowing that the people in their small community would do the same thing.
Weather isn’t the only handicap for the homeless. Many haul around the extent of their possessions on their backs every day, opening them to the possibility that the elements will ruin all of their personal belongings. Even worse, someone might steal their stuff.
When all you have is taken you have to start over. “My ID, birth certificate, and all forms of identification got burned in a friend’s house fire, which makes it hard to get a job with no form of identification,” said Steven Carl.
Many homeless men see the Delaware County Library as their greatest resource for support. The library is a warm, quite place to go during the day, so many homeless men utilize library resources to survive. The librarians have built relationships with these men and are helping them with basic needs.
During Christmas 2014 the librarians pulled together some resources and helped out some of the homeless men with food, clothing, and other basic necessities, according to Jon Hornbeck a local man living on the streets of Delaware.
Librarian Amanda Hennings started a petition for a men’s homeless shelter in Delaware so these men living on the streets would have a warm place to go on cold nights.
Homelessness is not just a seasonal issue. While cold weather can be brutal, warm weather can be just as difficult. Jon Hornbeck is a homeless diabetic and has a harder time controlling his condition in hotter weather than he does in the colder months.
While many organizations in Delaware are eager to provide a meal and support, the bigger need is for adequate housing for people with no roof over their heads.
“In order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in Ohio, renters need to earn $13.84 per hour,” according to COHHIO (COHHIO is an organization that provides a voice for the underrepresented, with a goal to end homelessness in Ohio). Many of these men do work when they can find it, but even if they work a 40-hour week that is not enough to cover the basics of food, clothing, and shelter.
Although it can be a struggle for a homeless man in Delaware many say they choose to stay here because they love the community.
For Instance, Jon Horbeck said he stays in Delaware because it is his home. He finds the people open and welcoming. He doesn’t want to leave his home and his friends. Although they may not have a roof over their heads every night, it is still home, even if the address is “the streets of Delaware.”