Coalition on Homelessness now underway in Clinton County

By Gary Huffenberger -



WILMINGTON — A Coalition on Homelessness is now organized and had its first meeting, with hopes that light will be shed this year on where to customize efforts for those who are unsheltered here.

Clinton County Regional Planning Commission (RPC) Executive Director Taylor Stuckert, Clinton County Homeless Shelter Executive Director Denise Stryker, and homelessness consultant Tom Albanese gave an overview Wednesday to county commissioners about the local initiative to lessen homelessness.

The Coalition’s steering committee is comprised of people from the city and county governments, the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association, law enforcement, mental health and substance abuse services, an individual who has been homeless, and there are a couple general seats still available. They will assemble monthly.

Like other homelessness coalitions, the group is also thought of as a Continuum of Care (CoC) — a local or regional planning body that’s responsible for coordinating the funding and delivery of housing and services for people experiencing homelessness in its service area.

In the virtual meeting with commissioners, Stryker said a CoC “is definitely something we’ve needed in Clinton County for quite some time.”

Stuckert, for his part, said having Coalition members commit to holding regularly scheduled meetings is important if there’s to be any potential for an effective community-wide response to homelessness.

“I do feel that this process is setting us up to do that,” said Stuckert.

One of the main reasons for Wednesday’s appointment was to talk with commissioners about helping fund a third of a coordinated community plan concerning homelessness that the City of Wilmington has pledged to support. The homelessness consultant Tom Albanese will provide a year of service — preparing the coordinated plan and assisting the CoC get going, for $49,500.

Proponents say a coordinated community plan process is a useful tool to get a better handle on the characteristics of a locale’s homelessness, and is a plan that helps everyone move forward in the same direction.

In making his case, Stuckert said “we have to do something active to even have a chance at solving it [local homelessness].”

He also said “a scatter-shot, reactionary service approach which is kind of what we have” is not a broad, effective approach, adding it certainly is not an approach that engages all the stakeholders who touch the issue.

The RPC director continued. He said he thinks it will be up to us as a county community to see how effective the initiative can be, and on how committed we are, and how willing we are to be on the same page and come to some sort of agreed-upon definition of the challenge, and to agreed-upon recommendations for trying to address the challenge.

As head of an agency that deals with a lot of “pretty challenging” initiatives, Stuckert told commissioners it’s reassuring to see a broad outpouring of interest on the matter and a willingness to commit.

What helps the most to fuel efforts and to work on some of those challenging initiatives, he said, is the community response.

“So, if you get quality engagement or quantity engagement, it feels good. You feel like you’re really taking on an issue that’s important to the community, and something that we want to be a part of. This has been one of those issues,” said Stuckert.

Clinton County Commissioners President Mike McCarty said it’s vital to learn “the root causes that put all these people in this position.”

He added, “I think that’s the value of creating this group is to start formulating plans and finding out where the majority of the problems arise, and using our limited resources to start targeting them, whether it’s mental health, [and/or] whether it’s drugs or alcohol addiction.”

Commissioners indicated they will discuss further the question of helping fund a coordinated community plan.

In addition to the Coalition on Homelessness’ steering committee, there is a general membership group which is open to anyone interested in the issue and being part of the process. They will meet quarterly.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.


By Gary Huffenberger