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Housing for homeless to get a boost when center opens at Jesus House

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Chris and Angie Malmgren stand in front of the Malmgren Center during the 40th anniversary of the Jesus House in 2015. (www.DonBlakePhotography.com)

WILMINGTON – Family Promise will more than double the number of New Castle County homeless families it will be able to house when it opens a hospitality center at Jesus House Prayer and Renewal Center in November.

Currently, the faith-based program houses four families at a time who rotate among 14 “host churches,” said Carolyn Gordon, executive director of Family Promise of Northern New Castle County. The hospitality center will serve as many as six families in two cottages and the upper floor of the main building.

“The second we say we have space available [at Jesus House], those spaces will be filled very fast because the need is so great,” Gordon said. “Over the course of a year we can serve another 50 families.”

Statistics provided by the organization show that more than 2,600 children in Delaware are homeless, or 45 percent of the state’s homeless population, and homeless families with children account for 40 percent of the state’s homeless population.

Jesus House was founded in 1975 by Chris and Angie Malmgren of Resurrection Parish. It describes itself as “a sacred space providing programs, service to the community and opportunities to deepen your spirituality.”

“We’ve been praying for ways to reach out to the local community to satisfy a need,” Angie Malmgren said. “Providing a place of stability to families while the staff of Family Promise works with them to move into a permanent home seemed to be a perfect solution for both of us, and it stabilized our financial situation, which is a plus.”

Jesus House will no longer provide overnight retreats, which would use the space Family Promise will offer homeless families, “but we have a full calendar of Days and Evenings of Reflection, Bible study, book groups and the like,” Malmgren said.

The first floor of the main building, featuring a kitchen and dining room, will be shared. Jesus House programs will be offered in the Nazareth Center on the campus. Its Amish-built chapel will continue to be used for prayer and Mass, and the chapel offices for pastoral counseling and spiritual direction.

The Malmgrens also announced the hiring of Mare Draper, currently a chaplain at Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, as its executive director. Draper previously had worked with high school and college youth groups, parish religious education programs, and adult formation programs in New Castle County.

Family Promise began operations in Delaware in 2010. Families are housed through the program with the goal to find permanent housing within 60 days. Those families, along with others yet to be housed, are provided case management that includes budget counseling, assistance updating resumes and searching for jobs and in finding permanent housing and linking clients with community resources.

The host churches will continue to house families after the hospitality center opens at Jesus house, meaning capacity will more than double from four families housed at any one time to up to 10 families.

No Catholic parishes are host churches, but three have worked as “support churches,” assisting the efforts of host churches. They are Holy Rosary in Claymont and Resurrection and St. John the Beloved in Wilmington.

More support churches have signed on to help with the hospitality center, Gordon said, including St. Catherine of Siena and St. Elizabeth’s in Wilmington.

Family Promise reports that 80 percent of families served were able to secure housing within 60 days, and that more than 90 percent were in the new residence a year after moving in.

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