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Springboard Collaborative takes aim at homelessness

Katie Tabeling
The Springboard Collaborative aims to address homelessness by introducing small villages to house those in need – and provide support services right there.

The Springboard Collaborative aims to address homelessness by introducing small villages to house those in need – and provide support services right there. | PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SPRINGBOARD COLLABORATIVE

GEORGETOWN – About a year ago, the Springboard Village opened 40 small cottages in Georgetown, each with heating and air conditioning as well as comprehensive care and meals. Today, that project launched by the Springboard Collaborative, has helped more than 90 people who have left the village since   and many have found housing outside the village or jobs on their own.

It’s part of a larger picture that Springboard Collaborative Executive Director Judson Malone hopes to find a creative solution for homelessness in Delaware.

“Delaware is a surprisingly diverse state, when you think about it. There’s Wilmington and there’ rural areas of New Castle County and Sussex, and to the east there’s a vacation community,” Malone said. “In a small state, there’s really a big chance to become an experimental environment for statewide solutions.”

The Springboard Collaborative is a statewide nonprofit that focuses on “dignified dwellings” to help residents experiencing housing insecurity and economic hardships. With partners across the state, the collaborative is inspired by Denmark and Finland’s “housing first” strategy. In exchange for providing housing, the resident agrees to work with the community services.

Those services include case workers, health services, as well as job training and financial training. In March 2023, Del-One Federal Credit Union partnered with the Springboard Collective to help open bank accounts for residents, for example.

“The idea is that you have people in a safe environment, some for the first time in many years, and they have their basic needs met,” Malone said. “Once they’re there, they can start to focus on other needs. After a few weeks, we’ve had residents that decide to go into drug treatment.”

The Springboard Collaborative’s mission inspired former Del-One FCU President and CEO Ron Barron to volunteer his time after he retired last year, among other partners like the Schell Brothers, Del-One FCU contributed $365,000 in construction costs for the Georgetown village. Today, Baron serves on the collaborative’s board. Del-One FCU contributed $50,000 alone to the nonprofit.

“I see Springboard as truly a model that will continue to make a huge difference in ending homelessness, and ending homelessness is a personal objective of mine,” Baron said. “We’re talking about human beings that are being respected and helped through a period of time in their life. The goal is to help them along, because they want a fair chance at life.”

Delaware’s latest housing needs assessment found that the state needs to add 1,200 affordable units per year to keep up with current demand. Right now, roughly 50,000 renters in Delaware are cost-burdened, defined as paying more than 30% of their gross income on utilities, rent and more, while 25,000 renters are severely cost-burdened, paying more than 50% of their gross income in household costs.

Baron said that through adding more projects much like the Georgetown one, the Springboard will help reduce the existing pressure for the affordable housing already on the market.

“What’s really encouraging is to see that, looking at the statistics of those who left the community, they’re doing well when they transition out,” he added.

The Springboard Collaborative is not without critics; its proposed project in Milford was put on hold after the city residents voiced their disapproval to use city tax dollars to support the project. Other criticisms note that the village does not explicitly prohibit drug abuse or require drug testing.

But Malone believes that Springboard’s model of providing a safe place will enable its residents to make “intelligent choices about managing their future.” Navigators are also on site to help provide guidance on available programs.

“The idea is to provide the motivation on what’s holding them back,” he said. “The success rate goes up exponentially in any program when it’s made of their own choice rather than by force.”

The Springboard Collaborative is having active conversations with partners in Wilmington on working together. For more information, visit www.the-springboard.org.


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