Pandemic sinks House of Pride into debt
Unemployment among Delaware’s Black residents has nearly tripled that of whites in 2020, despite Blacks being only 13% of the population.
Last year 8% of Blacks in the state were unemployed, compared to 3.3% of whites, according to 2020 Q1 and Q2 data from the Economic Policy Institute’s most recent report.
Lack of employment has put more pressure on the House of Pride, a housing and counseling program for men, since some of the tenants haven’t been able to pay rent due to the pandemic.
The House of Pride was in the clear before the pandemic, but now the nonprofit is in the red, said executive director Marion Lott. The organization, located on 45 S. New St., offers employment and housing for individuals recovering from substance abuse.
Lott hasn’t totaled how much debt the organization is in, but in a non-pandemic year the back rent could reach up to $20,000 at the end of a year, he said.
What’s helped to keep them from completely sinking in the past have been donations. Also, all six of the House of Pride’s homes are paid off, and all five staff members, including the executive director, don’t take a salary because they’re volunteers, Lott explained.
Lott, who lives around the corner from the House of Pride, is a pastor at Canaan Full Gospel Christian Church in Houston.
He spoke to the Dover Post about the fight he’s up against to provide shelter for his tenants who are trying to keep their heads above water.
Q: Have you evicted anyone during the pandemic because they couldn't pay rent?
A: I have not, because the reality of it is, and this is the one thing that keeps me in a bind — they have nowhere to go. If they have nowhere to go, then we'll be putting them back into the situation that we took them out of. So we just wait and rely on assistance to come from somewhere. Sometimes when we look at it, I don't even know how we make it ourselves. But we do.
Q: Are your tenants behind on utilities?
We have taxes to pay, insurance and utility bills. There’s always a month that goes by where all of the needs have not been met. Instead of us operating in the black, we've been operating in the red. We have a good relationship with the City of Dover to the point where if we're in situations where funds are low, we're able to talk with a utility company and explain our situation. Most times they'll give us a grace period.
More from Andre Lamar:How Black parents are talking to their kids about racism following attack on Capitol
Q: Where does most of your funding come from?
We get funding from Grant-In-Aid. I think that's about $20,000 per year. Then with the amount of proceeds we get from rent, it helps us to maintain. A lot of money that we would have to pay for maintenance on the houses, we pretty much do that ourselves; and when we have volunteers we'll utilize them and whatever other way the Lord helps us, we'll do that. We also receive donations from Lowes. A lot of those donations are for materials we can use to refurbish the houses. They might donate shingles, doors or windows.
Q: Government-sponsored racism has played a major role in creating Black poverty. What can you do to get more help from the government?
I wish I knew, because with an organization such as what we're running, along with it comes stereotypes. What amount of money will the government trust to a Black organization such as ours? We apply for grants, but there's always some stipulation of some criteria that causes us not to get it, which are things that we’re accustomed to, and we’re constantly working on it. Sometimes there's grants that are available for housing. But because we're an organization, the stipulation is it's for “housing,” but not for “group housing” for an organization that owns homes They'll say it's for individuals that own houses. I've experienced being excluded [from funding] in so many ways that it can be disturbing.
Q: What’s the reason for that stipulation?
I always say that when people don’t want you to receive money, they can always put certain language in a grant or put language in funding that can exclude you from it.
Q: Do you think that’s racist?
I think it's a method that they use, whether they call it racism or not, to determine where the funding goes.
For tips or story ideas, you can reach Andre Lamar at email@example.com