Counting their blessings: Help gets couple off streets
DOVER, Del. (AP) — Kimberly Hall and her husband David could only squeeze their hands tight, look into each other’s eyes and say “Hallelujah!” when asked what it meant to move into an apartment at Queen’s Manor in Dover just weeks ago.
It was less than a year ago that the Halls were trying to survive the bitter cold and freezing nights in the parking lot of Kohl’s Department Store, depending on the kindness of others just to get a nibble to eat.
However, the Halls won’t have to face the fear that they might not make it through the night this fall and winter again this year. That’s because Code Purple Kent County and the Dover Housing Authority located an apartment for Mrs. Hall, who has spent her entire life bound in a wheelchair from Cerebral Palsy, and her husband, who is her full-time caregiver.
The studio apartment they currently occupy — which doesn’t have a bedroom — might not be the perfect solution, but at least it’s a start.
Mrs. Hall said the friendship and support displayed by Rebecca Manahan Martin, the director of Code Purple Kent County, has meant the world to her and David.
“Those nights were cold,” Mrs. Hall said, looking back to two years spent homeless on the streets of Dover. ”(Rebecca Martin) is like the sister I’ve never had. She said, ‘You’ll never have to worry (about living outside) no more. You won’t have to worry about nothing.’
“It just goes to show you that there are still good people out there.”
Mrs. Martin was quick to thank others who helped rally around the married homeless couple for support.
“Oh my gosh, I can’t thank enough people, including the Dover Housing Authority, who helped us so much,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything so horrible — someone with Cerebral Palsy sitting in the rain in a wheelchair with no umbrella and no place to go.
“She’s become my sister and I would do anything in the world for her. I believe this is just a preview of what we have happening in Dover when it comes to the homeless.”
Mr. Hall said he hopes he never has to face the dire days of homelessness again.
“I’m sure we looked like a real first-class act sitting out there at Kohl’s in the parking lot and the wind was whipping,” said Mr. Hall. “I never thought I would see the day where I’d be living that way. I felt like (a very small) person.”
The Halls were among the estimated 300 to 400 people currently considered to be homeless in the Dover area.
Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen has taken on the challenge of trying to solve the problem head-on by starting the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force to End Homelessness in Dover last year.
The mayor said he is trying to bring homeless entities, housing groups and support programs together to find solutions.
“We put together a group of people who have a common interest in bringing great talent to this table and to this effort to accomplish what we’re all setting out to do,” Mayor Christiansen said. “I’m sure that the implementation that this task force is going to bring forward will reflect great efforts and initiative.”
Mrs. Martin hopes that with the addition of the task force there will be more success stories such as the Hall’s unfolding in the future.
‘It can happen to anybody’
Mr. Hall, who hung sheet metal for 32 years, doesn’t want people to judge him because he was homeless, saying “It can happen to anybody.”
It was just a string of unfortunate breaks that led him and his wife to the streets of Dover.
They have been married two or three years depending on who one asks. Mr. Hall says they have been married two years while his wife says three.
Mr. Hall lived in North Wilmington for seven years and said his landlord, and brother, got involved in a lottery scam which led to his eviction because he had to sell the house.
The Halls were then homeless in Smyrna a couple of years ago when Kimberly’s niece said if they gave her $400 a month for rent that there was a place up in Elkton, Maryland, where they could stay.
“We found out after about two-and-a-half months that she wasn’t even giving the money to the landlord,” Mr. Hall said. “They were partying with it, eating out, buying pot, whatever kids are into.
“Then they showed up with a U-Haul truck and got all of their belongings — with me and Kim sitting there — with no water running, they had it turned off, and no electric.”
It also turned out that moving to Maryland was a bad idea due to a difference in laws between there and Delaware, according to Mr. Hall.
“I have been constantly taking care of Kimberly or I wouldn’t be in this fix,” Mr. Hall said. “Between both of us we were getting about $1,900 a month with me being her husband/caregiver.
“When I moved to Maryland and I gave them my address they cut me off it, so now I’m not getting anything, which is crazy. It says right on the wall, Delaware and Maryland Eastern Shore is what they serve, and that seemed like false advertising to me.”
He added that things continued to get worse when he was working with a case worker who said he had to pay back $1,241.
“I said, “How the heck am I going to do that?,’” said Mr. Hall. “I’m taking care of my wife 24/7. She doesn’t want strangers coming in here if I go to work to help her on and off the toilet.
“From Maryland we came back to Delaware and we bounced around motels for at least two years. The state helped us a couple of times and a homeless friend of mine referred us to Code Purple, and that was our savior, or we would not be in this apartment.”
Rough times on the streets of Dover
Mr. Hall said it made him feel like “less than a person” when he had to hold a cardboard sign and beg people for money just so that he and his wife could live to see another day.
He even said he was scammed by other homeless people.
“One man told us he was going to pay for our motel room and that all he needed was $10 to cover it and he said he had $35 and he could get a room for $45,” Mr. Hall said. “So we gave him our last $10 and he went into the motel’s office and he came back and said ‘Y’all are good to go, God bless you.’
“It turned out he didn’t pay the motel anything and ended up taking our last $10. I’ll admit, he did put on a very good show. There are kind people, though. One guy gave us 50 bucks and last Father’s Day we got $161, which gave us a motel room for three days.”
Memories of those nights spent in the Kohl’s parking lot still make him shiver.
“We almost froze to death,” he said. “We were out in Kohl’s parking lot a couple of nights and man was it cold. I wrapped Kimberly up as best as I could with the blankets we had and things, but boy it was rough.
“We stayed a couple of nights at Dunkin Donuts and then I guess they got tired of looking at us. We even had our wedding license and our birth certificates stolen out of her wheelchair. They just disappeared and I don’t know what happened to them.”
When the Halls did get a motel room to spend the night in Dover it wasn’t the best of conditions.
Mr. Hall said Kimberly would go to the bathroom and when she returned he’d have to wash her off because her feet and knees and hands would be black because of mold on the rug.
Answering the call
Mrs. Martin couldn’t bear to see Kimberly out on the streets of Dover in a wheelchair in the cold, wind and rain.
She decided to make the couple’s plight her own and sought out help for them.
“That’s when we met Rebecca,” said Mr. Hall. “She said, ‘This is just wrong,’ and since her and Code Purple, things took off and they helped us get in (Queens Manor) finally. She’s a wonderful lady.”
Of course, Mrs. Martin points to the work done by her organization as well as the efforts of the Dover Housing Authority to get the couple off the streets of Dover.
“She was homeless and sitting in a wheelchair in the elements . and then in a motel here in Dover that was horrible,” said Mrs. Martin. We have been able to get her in an apartment through Dover Housing.
“It is a very touching story. Our community has come together to provide everything that they need for their apartment.”
Indeed, they came with food, kitchen supplies, pots and pans, blankets, a sofa bed, even wall hangings that they can’t use yet until they get permission to hang them.
But hey, no matter what, the Halls have found a home now.
It’s a far cry from even earlier this summer for the couple.
″(Kimberly) actually said, ‘I think God’s tired of hearing me,’ because we were outside and it was just so hot and we were out there,” Mr. Hall said. “I told her God never gets tired of hearing her.”
Mrs. Hall said, “I’m just happy we’re in here before winter gets arrives. No more freezing nights in parking lots. Hallelujah! Thank God for Rebecca (Manahan Martin), her family and everyone else who helped us find this place and move into it.
“They have truly been a blessing.”
Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information from: Delaware State News, http://delawarestatenews.net