A Sanctuary In Time Of Need
302-652-8278 • fax: 302-652-8641
Friendship House is a non-profit Christian corporation committed to making a positive difference in the lives of the homeless people in New Castle County, Delaware through the traditional spiritual ministries of hospitality, education, empowerment and community. A coalition of over one hundred churches, schools and community organizations, Friendship House believes that loneliness, self-hatred and hopelessness bind people to the cycle of homelessness just as surely as poverty, unemployment and chemical abuse. All the works and programs of Friendship House strive to affirm the sacred worth of every person, no matter how rich or poor, weak or strong, young or old, violent or vulnerable.
While Friendship House espouses no religion or political ideology, it does minister to others out of a specifically Christian context. Those who wish to minister to the homeless through Friendship House are expected to be people of deep religious faith who encourage others to seek a God of Truth and Love who accepts them just to be as they are. Jesus of Nazareth is our model of the True Friend. Without such Friendship none of can hope to overcome the depersonalizing and oppressing influences of the world in which we live.
Friendship House began in the winter of 1986-87 as a spontaneous response to the plight of many persons in the city of Wilmington. It began through a thrift store called "The Friendship House", located at 216 N. Market Street, which was operated by Meeting Ground, a Maryland-based homeless ministry of the New Castle Presbytery. During an especially severe December snow storm, Herbert S. Stine, the volunteer store manager, chose not to close the store at 5:00 P.M. in order that his homeless customers might have a sanctuary from the snow and wind. From that night until the following spring, The Friendship House remained open twenty-four hours a day, offering night time shelter to as many as twenty homeless folks and beginning a new ministry of day time assistance and advocacy. While some persons continued to shop at the store, an increasing number of individuals and families came seeking help to escape their homeless condition. They asked for everything from the use the telephone to a quiet place to sit for a few hours out of the bitter cold.
On April 1, 1987 the city fire marshal ordered The Friendship House to close and not reopen until it could be fully licensed as a shelter. At the same time church volunteers from Immanuel Church, Highlands and First and Central Presbyterian Church convinced their church communities to co-sponsor this homeless ministry. In coalition with Meeting Ground, these two churches and several other committed individuals formally incorporated as Friendship House, Inc. (a Delaware non-profit corporation with 501(c)(3)status). Although the thrift store never reopened, Friendship House, the ministry, began building a network of programs and services the following fall. In September 1987, Friendship House began serving a Sunday morning breakfast. In October 1987, it opened a daytime drop-in center on Fourth & Market Street.
In the past twenty-four years Friendship House has expanded into churches and schools, business and community organizations. In church basements and parsonages, it now operates two night shelters and ten half-way housings, housing more than 70 individuals on any given night. Its three day time centers for men and women (two in Wilmington and one in Newark) routinely serve two hundred fifty homeless clients daily. Its volunteers now number nearly 1,500 hundred men, women and children. Its Clothing Bank distributes more than 150,000 lbs. of highly quality donated clothing annually through a network of 250 community partners. Its Job Readiness Program helps more than 500 employable, homeless clients find jobs and its Clothing Bank Employment Training Programs provides 30 women annually with training and temporary employment.
Friendship House's logo is a community of people sheltered by caring hands, for Friendship House remains a house without walls. It accepts no federal or state funding, possessing neither an endowment nor guaranteed income. Like those whom it serves, Friendship House walks in the faith that if it does the work of the Kingdom, a way will be found to serve.