One Hero at a Time: Update on Delaware’s Challenge to House Homeless Veterans



December 23, 2015 (Dover, DE) – On any given night, 100 Veterans in Delaware are homeless. For seven years, Henry Smith was one of them. An honorably discharged Veteran of the U.S. Army, Mr. Smith lived off and on in rooming houses and in 2015 was referred by the Wilmington VA Medical Center to Connections’ VA-funded Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. SSVF provides a range of supportive services and assistance to help Veterans secure housing stability. He entered the program on November 5, 2015 and was housed on December 3. “After being homeless for seven years, I thought housing was impossible,” said Mr. Smith. “My apartment is quiet, clean, and well-kept. Connections worked hard to establish a rapport with the landlord, and I hope more vets get the opportunity to be housed.”

Helping all homeless Veterans reach the same outcome Mr. Smith achieved with the help of Connections is the goal of the Delaware Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. Today, the Delaware State Housing Authority and partners in the Challenge announced a progress update. Earlier this year, the state working group steering the effort used methodology developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to estimate that 277 Veterans are expected to experience homelessness in Delaware in 2015. Since January 29, 2015, 282 homeless Veterans have been identified in Delaware. Two hundred seventy eight of these have been stabilized and are off the streets. Of these, 169 have been placed in permanent housing. One hundred nine are in temporary housing (emergency or transitional housing: still homeless by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s definition, but stabilized), and only four remain unsheltered.

Homeless Veterans Graph

After announcing his intent to end homelessness among Veterans in Delaware in his State of the State Address, in May 2015 Governor Markell unveiled the State’s plan to achieve this goal and signed on to the national Challenge. A state working group brings together key state and federal partners and representatives from local committees on a monthly basis to steer and monitor progress on the statewide effort. Key partners include the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Delaware Commission for Veterans Affairs, Homeless Planning Council of Delaware, Connections CSP, Veterans Multi-Service Center, all three counties in Delaware, and the cities of Wilmington, Newark, Dover, Seaford, Georgetown, Bridgeville, Greenwood, and Blades have also signed on. Local groups are working in all three counties on direct outreach and community mobilization.

On October 23, Governor Markell and other officials announced several new initiatives to end Veteran homelessness in Delaware, including a statewide 100-day challenge to permanently house 96 homeless Veterans, starting October 23 and ending with the annual Point in Time study in late January, 2016. The Point in Time study is the process by which Veteran homelessness is measured nationally each year. In the 100-day Challenge to date, 29 homeless Veterans have been placed in permanent housing. Also announced in October, the Veterans Count outreach event identified eight unsheltered homeless Veterans who had not been in contact with services previously and are now being engaged in services. On November 10, 11, and 12, volunteers statewide canvassed the state at 4:00 AM to seek and identify unsheltered homeless Veterans.

The Challenge is not only about housing Veterans who are currently homeless, but putting the systems in place to ensure that Veterans who become homeless in the future are quickly connected to permanent housing, resources are available to house them, and homeless Veterans do not fall through cracks between the VA and mainstream systems. Many such system changes are underway in Delaware, to ensure the commitment to end Veteran homelessness is not just temporary but permanent.

Governor Markell stated, “With the hard work of everyone involved in this effort, we are showing that stories like Henry Smith’s can represent the new norm. We can ensure homeless Veterans are quickly and effectively connected to services and permanent housing assistance, while service providers are committed to help ensure their success and Delaware landlords are willing to give Veterans a hand up.”

Phyllis Chamberlain, Executive Director of the Homeless Planning Council of Delaware, added: “This initiative is really about providing housing first opportunities to Veterans as quickly as possible. Housing provides a safe and stable foundation for Veterans and their families, and from that safety and stability, they can better deal with any other issues they may be experiencing, including lack of employment and mental illness.”

Progress on the Challenge will again be measured with the 2016 Point in Time count in late January 2016, a statewide outreach and census event to identify individuals who are homeless on a given night. For more information about the national and Delaware Challenges, please see:

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Mayors Challenge

Delaware Challenge


About the Delaware State Housing Authority

The Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA), formed in 1968, is dedicated to providing quality, affordable housing opportunities and appropriate supportive services to low- and moderate-income Delawareans. For more information about the Delaware State Housing Authority, please call: (302) 739-4263 or visit our website at:

Governor Markell Appoints 17th Poets Laureate for the State of Delaware

Wilmington, DE – Following the recent retirement of JoAnn Balingit as Delaware’s Poet Laureate, Governor Jack Markell today announced the Twin Poets, Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Albert Mills, will share the title of 17th Poets Laureate of the State of Delaware.

“I’m thrilled to appoint the Twin Poets to the Delaware poet laureate position,” said Governor Markell. “Their artistic excellence, combined with extensive experience in outreach to underserved communities and infectious love of poetry and spoken word will be a benefit for all Delawareans.”

Inspired at an early age to express themselves through writing, Chukwuocha and Mills have become two of the most respected poets on the reemerging poetry and spoken word scene. Performances with such poetic legends as the Last Poets, the late Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Walter Mosley, Haki Madhubuti and the late Chinua Achebe have paved the way to repeated performances at well-known theaters, college/universities, preschools, orphanages, and area group homes, as well as prison poetry programs in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York.

“We see the ills in our community, the things that are going wrong,” says Mills. “And we feel that art truly is our way to help address some of these things. Given the appointment, I think we’ll be able to put poetry and art in places and conversations where it hasn’t been in the past. In reference to the violence, in reference to the detention centers, the work-release programs — I just think that art plays a part in the whole scheme of things. I think, so often, it’s completely overlooked as even part of the solution, which we truly feel it is.”

“This appointment will allow us to continue to create an environment where it’s OK to express your emotions and your love, your care and concern for another person,” said Chukwuocha. “This camaraderie, this brotherhood, it’s in everything we do, and it’s sorely missing from our community.”

The Twin Poets have won many awards for their work, including the Village Award from the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families (2006), Bank of America’s Local Heroes Award (2006), Citizens of the Year from Omega Psi Phi Fraternity (2006), Christi Award for Community Service through the Arts (2005), Mentors of the Year from the City of Wilmington (1998), The Mayors Award for Service to Children (1997), and Outstanding Young Wilmingtonian Award for Community Service (1997).

The Twin Poets have also been featured on the Peabody Award-winning HBO program Def Poetry, BET’s Lyric Café, and NPR’s Poetic License, and they are the subject of a Hearts and Minds Films documentary called Why I Write. They have toured nationally and internationally, most recently with the Poetically Incorrect Tour.

The Twin Poets have authored several poetry books and have been included in many anthologies. Their latest work, a children’s book entitled Homework For Breakfast, is illustrated by Robyn Phillips-Pendleton and is scheduled for release in 2016 (Mariposa Ranch Press).

The State Poet Laureate program is facilitated by the Delaware Division of the Arts. The Division works with the Delaware Poet Laureate to coordinate activities and appearances in communities throughout the state. As the Poets Laureate for Delaware, the Twin Poets plan to be strong advocates for poetry throughout the state by:

  • Incorporating poetry/ spoken word and creative writing programming into schools, libraries and community centers.
  • Introducing poetry as a tool for transformation within youth detention centers and adult correctional facilities.
  • Utilizing the poetic art form to strengthen the healing and support process for veterans, especially those suffering from PTSD.
  • Taking poetry/spoken word and creative writing into communities of need to assist with addressing gun violence.

Nnamdi Chukwuocha is a member of the Wilmington City Council and chairs the city’s Education, Youth and Families committee. He is a community-based social worker who sits on an array of boards and commissions including the Sustainable Energy & Utilities Commission and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission. Chukwuocha has well over 30 years’ experience in the nonprofit world, was recently awarded the Wilmington Urban League’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, and has been recognized as an outstanding Delaware State University Alumni.

Albert Mills is a community-based social worker deeply rooted in the juvenile justice system. Mills has designed and led organizations that provide services for delinquent youth and their families. As a therapist, he serves New Castle County Delaware’s Multisystemic Therapy Services. Mills is a certified A.R.T. therapist, and takes pride in his efforts to utilize art as a tool for foundational change in youth, families, communities, and our society. A cofounder of G.O.A.L.S., and S.Y.A.-Tutoring and Mentoring Programs in Wilmington, Mills is also an honored army veteran who served in Iraq and speaks about his struggles with PTSD as a result of the war.

For more information on the Twin Poets, and instructions for how to bring them to your community, please visit Note: information on the Twin Poets will be available here on December 17.


Governor Announces New Castle County Courthouse Naming

Honors civil rights leader, Judge Leonard Williams

Wilmington, DE – Governor Markell announced today that the state will name the New Castle County Courthouse after the late Leonard Williams, the state’s second African-American judge. The building’s new signage will be unveiled next year.

“Judge Williams played a significant role in the civil rights movement in Delaware, from excelling as one of the first black students at the University of Delaware to fighting for justice in his partnership with Louis Redding and helping pave the way for future African-American attorneys and judges,” said Governor Markell. “With this naming, the state will fulfill commitments that call for using the New Castle County Courthouse to pay tribute to his achievements.”

In 1997, Wilmington City Council enacted an ordinance directing that land owned by the City at 4th and Walnut Streets include a deed restriction requiring any courthouse built there be named after Judge Williams. Mayor James H. Sills, Jr. imposed that deed restriction in 1998, and the property was sold later that year to the State to serve as the location of the New Castle County Courthouse. Since that time, language in the State’s Bond and Capital Improvements Act has vested discretion for the naming of the courthouse in the Director of the Office of Management and Budget or his or her predecessors.

Today’s announcement reflects the Governor’s belief that the state must honor the deed restrictions that existed when the state purchased the property.

After becoming the fifth African-American admitted to the Delaware bar in 1959, Williams was a longtime law partner of Louis L. Redding, Delaware’s first black lawyer who famously and successfully argued a case that became part of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawing segregation. Redding chose Williams to help him continue to pursue civil rights cases, including in the Supreme Court.

Williams would become an assistant city solicitor in Wilmington, and then chief prosecuting attorney for Municipal Court until 1966, when he was appointed to the bench. He served in that role for 32 years before Municipal Court was merged with the Court of Common Please, which currently resides in the New Castle County Courthouse that will bear Williams’ name.

Following his death in 2013 at age 78, the News Journal noted Williams’ commitment to organizations dedicated to justice and serving those in greatest need, including the NAACP, the National Welfare Rights Council, Layton Home, Peoples Settlement Association, and Walnut Street YMCA. In addition, he was “mentor-in-chief” at his former school, Howard High, where he worked with juniors and seniors interested in the legal profession.


Governor Markell pardons Conductor on the Underground Railroad Samuel D. Burris

Video and Photos of the event

Issued 168 years later in the same courtroom as his conviction

Dover, DE – In an effort to right a historic injustice, Governor Jack Markell today issued a pardon for Samuel D. Burris, a free black man from Delaware, who, on Nov. 2, 1847, was convicted of aiding slaves escaping from their owners. The ceremony, which took place in the same courtroom in which Burris was convicted 168 years ago, was attended by several of his descendants. (Full text of the pardon is available here.)

Burris“This pardon is an extraordinary act in recognition of a historic wrong that cannot be corrected by a single stroke of a pen,” said Governor Markell. “But while we cannot change what was done more than 150 years ago, we can ensure that Mr. Burris’ legacy is appropriately recognized and celebrated. We affirm today that history will no longer record his actions as criminal, but rather as acts of freedom and bravery in the face of injustice.”

As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Burris is known to have successfully led several enslaved people from Maryland and Delaware to freedom. After an 1847 attempt to bring a young woman, Maria Matthews, out of Kent County, Delaware to Pennsylvania, Burris was captured and charged in three cases of aiding slaves escaping from their owners. Found guilty in two of the cases, he was fined, sentenced to prison and thereafter sentenced to be sold into servitude. After being “purchased” for $500 by Wilmington abolitionist Isaac S. Flint, he was taken to Philadelphia where he was reunited with his wife, children and friends. He continued to work for the abolitionist cause until his death in San Francisco in 1863.

During today’s event, Ocea Thomas, a descendant of Burris, read a letter he wrote dated March 29, 1848. Addressed to his brother and penned while in a jail cell just steps from where today’s ceremony took place, it read in part, “My religion teaches me to believe that as the condition of our heart is when our mortal life leaves us so judgement will find our never dying souls. And if so, what will be the condition of those who lived and died in neglect of that golden rule: do unto others as you would that others should do unto you?”

The ceremony also included the unveiling of a historical marker honoring the noted Underground Railroad conductor. The marker was recently installed near Burris’ home, southwest of Camden, DE at the intersection of Route 10 (Willow Grove Road) and Henry Cowgill Road.


Governor Markell Announces Delaware Bayshore Milestones

Event highlights land preservation, the Bayshore Byway, outdoor recreation amenities, and new branding design

Thousand Acre Marsh, DE – With autumn foliage at its peak and the scenic Thousand Acre Marsh in the background, Governor Jack Markell announced important Delaware Bayshore milestones that enhance the state’s natural resources for world-class conservation and boost the economy through recreational activities. The Governor was joined by Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary David Small, Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) Secretary Bernice Whaley, conservation, transportation and tourism partners and Bayshore community leaders and residents to highlight key accomplishments of the Delaware Bayshore Initiative.Bayshore

The Delaware Bayshore Initiative enhances and promotes the region as a world-class conservation and low-impact recreation area, strengthens historic local communities and improves the quality of life for all Delawareans. The initiative received national recognition from the U.S. Department of the Interior, as one of the country’s most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world.

“The Delaware Bayshore Initiative builds on our reputation as a state of unique and beautiful natural resources, while also strengthening our economy by encouraging Delawareans and visitors to enjoy the area through activities like birding, fishing, and boating,” said Governor Markell. “That’s why we’re excited to announce these efforts to preserve important wetlands, increase public access to one of our state’s most beautiful landscapes, and enhance the Bayshore as a valuable tourism destination. These milestones help ensure we and future generations will fully enjoy all of the benefits the Bayshore offers.”

The Delaware Bayshore, extending along the Delaware River and Bay from New Castle to Lewes, is widely recognized as an area of global ecological significance. Its expansive coastal marshes, sandy shoreline, forests, fields, and agricultural lands provide habitat for more than 400 species of birds and other wildlife. The Nature Conservancy has called the Delaware Bayshore, “one of the earth’s most important stopovers for migratory birds.” Nearly 120,000 acres of Bayshore lands are already protected as national wildlife refuges, state wildlife areas, state parks, national estuarine research reserves, private conservation areas, agricultural preserves and cultural heritage sites throughout the area.

“The Delaware Bayshore Initiative is building upon decades of significant conservation investment in preserving wetlands, forests, agricultural lands and open space,” said Secretary Small. “I want to thank our federal partners, Bayshore communities and the many conservation partners working collaboratively. By preserving and enhancing our precious Bayshore lands, we are encouraging Delawareans and visitors to enjoy these natural treasures and protecting the Delaware Bayshore and its wild and scenic landscape for future generations.”

“The scenic Delaware Bayshore, which includes coastal marshes, farms and forests, is not only a great recreational amenity for the state, but a crucial habitat for diverse species,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper. “I am proud of ongoing local, state and federal partnerships like the Delaware Bayshore Initiative that help to protect these lands for generations to come, while encouraging Delawareans and visitors to the First State to get outside and enjoy these beautiful natural treasures.”

“I am proud of the hard work that a number of state and federal agencies have done over the past few years to pool resources, leverage grant funding, and strategically acquire valuable property on Delaware’s coast,” said U.S. Senator Chris Coons. “Delaware’s Bayshore Initiative recognizes that protecting our beautiful wetlands is important from an environmental point of view, but it also makes sense to preserve treasures like the Thousand Acre Marsh that attracts birders and naturalists from all over the world who want to enjoy the view. I am glad that federal programs like the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program were used in conjunction with state and private funds to make this possible.”

“Delaware is blessed with a beautiful coastline and natural habitat that draws residents and visitors from across the region.  We have to preserve it for future generations to enjoy,” said U.S. Congressman John Carney. “These milestones reflect tremendous conservation efforts that have gone into protecting our precious natural resources. I’m excited for more people to discover the Delaware Bayshore and the beauty that’s right in our backyard.”

Today’s event highlights four Bayshore milestones, including the preservation of a key property at Thousand Acre Marsh, the launch of the Delaware Bayshore Byway and Plan, the opening of a new trail and wildlife viewing platform and the Bayshore’s new branding design. The projects were made possible through a variety of partnerships and state, federal and private funding sources.

Land preservation of the 140-acre Bennett Farm property at Thousand Acre Marsh

The Bennett Farm, a key coastal wetland property, part of the Thousand Acre Marsh near Port Penn, was preserved through a federal grant of $731,000 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant (NCWCG) Program, along with matching state funds and private contributions.

Conservation of the 140-acre property brings a total of 528 acres of Thousand Acre Marsh under permanent protection and expands access to globally-significant wildlife habitat within the Delaware Bayshore. With this property, the Augustine Wildlife Area, including the Thousand Acre Marsh, totals 3,130 protected acres.

The Thousand Acre Marsh provides habitat for thousands of wintering waterfowl and serves as a stopover for migratory birds during spring and fall and as breeding grounds for waterbirds, as well as habitat for fish and muskrats. Protection and management of the property will help safeguard habitat for several species listed as State Endangered, as well as protecting foraging habitat for one of the largest and most diverse heronries on the East Coast and critical overwintering habitat for the bald eagle.

“Coastal wetlands are among the richest and most important natural places on the planet,” said Wendi Weber, Northeast Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “They are habitats for fish and wildlife, but also play an important role for people – such as providing clean water and special places to get outside and enjoy nature. National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants allow us to leverage resources with our partners to conserve the nature of our coast, including Delaware’s Bayshore.”

“Today marks the start of a never-before precedent of conservation partnerships and stakeholders from local, state and federal agencies all coming together to not only protect and preserve this incredible acreage at Thousand Acre Marsh, but to enhance the property for public access, educational opportunities and world-class viewing amenities,” said Bill Stewart, president of the Delmarva Ornithological Society (DOS). “To realize that the efforts of numerous birders and supporters of DOS Delaware Bird-A-Thon fundraising, coupled with funds provided by other great conservation partners, helped turn a dream into reality, is frankly, awe-inspiring.”

Delaware’s matching cost share for the grant was about $500,000, consisting of Delaware Open Space Program funds and partner contributions, and a land value match from a nearby state-owned tract that was part of the grant provisions placed under the protection of the NCWCG program. Three conservation partner groups who financially supported the project are The Nature Conservancy in Delaware with funding from Mt. Cuba Center, the Delmarva Ornithological Society and Delaware Wild Lands.

Launch of the Delaware Bayshore Byway and Plan

The Delaware Bayshore Byway, extending along Route 9 from the City of New Castle to the St. Jones Neck east of Dover, was officially launched today. As “the road less traveled,” the Delaware Bayshore Byway meanders along the Delaware River and Bay through the heart of the Bayshore’s most picturesque coastal marshes, sandy shorelines, forests, fields and agricultural lands. The Byway is the tourism backbone of the Bayshore – connecting special natural areas, recreation and historical sites and Bayshore communities.

“DelDOT is pleased to collaborate with DNREC, Bayshore communities and others to promote, preserve and enhance the natural and cultural resources that make the Bayshore region special,” said DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan. “By building trails and maintaining roadways, DelDOT proudly supports eco-tourism throughout the state of Delaware.”

As part of the launch, the Corridor Management Plan (CMP) for the Byway was announced. The plan was funded by a grant of $146,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byway Program, with additional funds provided by local state legislators.

“What makes the Scenic Byway Program so special is the fact that it is a grass-roots collaborative effort established to help recognize, preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the United States,” said Federal Highway Administration Delaware Division Administrator Mary Ridgeway. “The nearly $1.1 million in federal funding for the Delaware Bayshore Byway management plan and future improvements will help boost the economy by creating jobs and bringing tourist dollars to the region.”

The CMP provides the framework to guide the actions necessary to enhance, preserve and promote the Bayshore and Byway. The plan was developed by the Bayshore Planning Advisory Committee, comprised of representatives from state agencies, environmental groups, tourism offices and Bayshore communities, with leadership from Delaware Greenways. The CMP establishes a path forward and includes goals that will brand and market the Bayshore and Byway, conserve the natural environment, support the needs of Bayshore communities and enhance access to the natural areas.

“Over a two year period, the planning process actively engaged many community leaders, landowners, tourism experts and state and local organizations and developed a plan valued by the key stakeholders of the Bayshore,” said Steve Borleske, chairman of the Bayshore Planning Advisory Committee and Delaware Greenways board member. “With the CMP to steer our efforts, the committee is dedicated to working together to implement recommendations that will preserve and enhance the Delaware Bayshore Byway.”

A Byway extension which will continue south from St. Jones Neck east of Dover to the City of Lewes has been proposed. At this time, the towns of Bowers Beach and Slaughter Beach and the community of Broadkill Beach have officially voted to be part of the Byway extension. Outreach with other Bayshore communities is currently underway.

Opening of new outdoor recreation amenities – a wildlife viewing platform and trail

A new wildlife viewing platform overlooking the Thousand Acre Marsh and a scenic walking trail were opened today, both of which were designed to provide ADA-accessible opportunities for observing wildlife. Interpretive signs are being added at the trailhead area and the observation platform. The new platform provides outstanding viewing of waterfowl, herons, egrets and other waterbirds, especially during peak fall migrations. These enhancements provide a safe location for travelers on the Byway to view wildlife and wetlands and promote low-impact recreation in close proximity to Bayshore communities, including nearby Port Penn and Delaware City.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, Delaware outdoor recreation, which includes hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and tourism, significantly contributes to the state’s conservation economy, which generates $4 billion annually, including $1.1 billion in salaries and wages and $304 million in local and state tax revenue. More than 60 percent of Delawareans participate in outdoor recreation.

Funded in part through the FY2015 Trails and Pathways Bond Bill appropriation, this project is part of a Federal Highways Administration Byways Grant for the Delaware Bayshore Byway.

Unveiling the new Delaware Bayshore brand design

A new branding design was unveiled that enhances the Delaware Bayshore as an eco-tourism destination. It creates an identity for the entire Bayshore, with communication materials that reflect natural and historical areas, the Byway and the communities. The brand sets the Bayshore apart as a distinctive and memorable travel destination and increases the likelihood of Delawareans and out-of-state residents visiting the area.

“We’re very fortunate that Bayshore partners have worked with us to incorporate the look and feel of the new Delaware tourism logo into their brand,” said Secretary Bernice Whaley of the Delaware Economic Development Office. “With its new identity, the Delaware Bayshore becomes a clearly identifiable place of its own, one that has the cohesiveness and unity that is needed to become a true destination. With a clear, compelling and inspiring brand, the Bayshore becomes a great tool in our toolbox for enhancing tourism in Delaware. This is truly a win-win for us all.”

The brand designs include a branding statement, logos, slogan, signage and advertisements that can be used by the partners to market and promote the Bayshore in a coordinated way. The branding is vital to the education of residents and travelers and helps ensure that future generations learn to respect, value and protect the region.

For more information on the Delaware Bayshore Initiative, contact Karen Bennett, Delaware Bayshore Coordinator, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife at 302-739-9124,, or visit DNREC’s website at

For information on the Delaware Bayshore Byway, contact Ann Gravatt, DelDOT Planning Supervisor, Byway Program, at 302-760-2254, or visit the Delaware Bayshore Byway website at