Baron: Curing homelessness needs plan, commitment


Ronald Baron is the board treasurer for The Springboard Collaborative Inc., a nonprofit aimed at ending chronic homelessness in Delaware. It has operated the Springboard Collaborative Pallet Shelter Village in Georgetown since January 2023.

There has been a lot of discussion for years about the homelessness problem in Delaware and across the United States. While there are many ideas on how to resolve homelessness and tons of government funds have been made available to address the problem, homelessness is continuing to grow. We need to reengineer the approach for ending homelessness. After all, to quote Albert Einstein, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Let’s explore what homelessness is and what it isn’t. At the same time, let’s consider what our individual attitudes and feelings are toward homeless individuals and see if those need an adjustment, also.

To understand homelessness, it’s critical to dispel preconceived notions and assess our individual attitudes toward those experiencing homelessness. Often, our perceptions are tainted by a sense of detachment — “It’s not my problem, not mine to fix” — or a total “blindness” toward the homeless. We don’t acknowledge the humanity of these individuals. They are not mere objects but individuals facing diverse challenges in this moment of their lives.

One major reason for homelessness is the reality that there is not enough housing to accommodate everyone. Housing costs, the inventory of available homes and demographic shifts in Delaware contribute to a shortage of approximately 20,000 housing units for low-income individuals.

It’s essential to debunk stereotypes that label homeless individuals as drug addicts, lazy or mentally ill.

Whenever you see someone as homeless, it is necessary to remind ourselves that they are human beings. They are part of God’s creation, and they are just like you and me. Each homeless individual deserves the same respect and concern as we would have for ourselves or a family member. Homeless individuals should never be given a lower status than any of us.

Homelessness encompasses a myriad of situations, including low wages; health-related job loss; overwhelming debt; untreated mental health or addiction issues; family breakdowns; persons discharged from prisons, hospitals or foster care systems; and more. Then, let’s start looking at what needs to be done.

Addressing homelessness demands a multifaceted, adaptable and innovative approach. Despite the considerable funds and volunteer efforts directed toward the issue, the homeless population continues to grow. A private-public partnership with measurable outcomes and preparedness for potential homelessness cases is essential. An enduring commitment necessitates addressing the lack of affordable housing and the pivotal role of “opportunity housing” or “interim housing” in the solution.

“Affordable housing” is often misunderstood, considering that homeless individuals do not fit the conventional income brackets. “Opportunity housing” or “interim housing,” proven successful in the western U.S., should find a place in Delaware. An exemplary case is the Springboard Collaborative Pallet Shelter Village in Georgetown, which has seen substantial success in its first year, providing secure housing and a continuum of care tailored to individual needs. The Georgetown village is a low-barrier navigation center, which means homeless individuals don’t have to be “clean” of their addictions to become participants.

In January 2023, the Georgetown homeless village accepted 40 homeless individuals in the opening week. One year later, the village has seen tremendous results. In 2023, the village served 97 individuals, and the need of each participant varied greatly. The first thing homeless individuals need is not just a roof over their heads but a secure space (cabin) to call their own (that they can lock), a secure village that cares for them 24/7 and a continuum of care based on each person’s own needs, which comes from a wide network of professional organizations working with the village participants. During this first full year, the village had not one death due to overdose. There was one death of an individual who was terminally ill and who would have otherwise died on the street. Instead, the Georgetown village provided this person a dignified space to spend their last days.

To truly end homelessness, action is imperative. Elected officials, communities and faith groups must act promptly, understanding the profound costs of inaction, such as increased emergency room visits and needless deaths. The solution lies in collective efforts, open-mindedness and a commitment to proven strategies that have succeeded in various locations, including Georgetown. The challenge of homelessness is not insurmountable; united efforts can pave the way for meaningful change. Coming together and being open-minded and committed to solutions are the first steps we need to take to end homelessness. To learn more about the village or to donate, please go to the website at

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