From “Homeless” to “Housing Provider” with the help of a DSHA Grant

From “Homeless” to “Housing Provider” with the help of a DSHA Grant
Laurie Stovall
Posted By: Laurie Stovall

Toni Short knows what it’s like to be homeless.  She became homeless in 2014 after being injured while working as a nurse.  Unable to work, Short lost her home and ended up living in her car in a Walmart parking lot.  But she wasn’t alone.  She found others living in the same parking lot, and after getting to know them, was overtaken by the desire to help.

After she regained her health, Short found ways to provide housing, food and other necessities to the people she met in the Walmart parking lot.  With the help of volunteers and monetary donations, in 2015 Short started Lighthouse for Broken Wings to provide emergency housing.  It is currently based at a local motel in Lewes, Delaware.

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Delaware State Housing Authority awarded more than $5 million in Community Development Block Grant funding for eligible public service activities statewide.  This included $550,000 for the administration and management of hotel/motel voucher programs.

Between 2021 and 2023, Short applied for and received nearly $382,000 in Block Grant funding for Lighthouse for Broken Wings and she has assisted 120 families with the funds. So far in 2023, she has housed 250 people, including the elderly and persons with disabilities.

“The funding has helped me tremendously,” Short said.  “I would not be able to be open without it.”

Short goes well beyond paying for motel rooms.  She also provides food, clothing and personal items to her residents and even helps pay for job training and transportation.

For families with young children, Short makes sure the children have clothing and supplies for school, and if their parents work, she arranges after-school child care.  Short prioritizes the needs of her residents.  “I am last, they are first.”

Short’s reputation for helping is well known in the community.  She gets calls from hospitals, health insurance companies, police departments and other organizations, asking her to take in individuals who need immediate housing.  In fact, she often provides pick-up service.

Besides those she houses in the motel, Short provides permanent support housing to 10 individuals in a separate home in nearby Harbeson.

In addition to DSHA Block Grants, Short receives funding from several faith-based and charitable organizations.  She also receives donations from individuals, including family members, and she relies on the assistance of a large and generous group of volunteers who help with providing meals, transportation and security.

Short says she is appreciative of “the generosity of the community,” and does her best to earmark donations based on contributors’ preferences.  “I put everybody’s money in the categories they want me to use it in.”

Short has been honored for her tireless efforts.  In 2021 she received the prestigious Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Public Service Benefiting Local Communities.  The award is one of the categories of the national Jefferson Awards for public service.  Short says she was honored to receive the award, but it has not changed the constant need to find sources of funding to keep Lighthouse for Broken Wings going.

Although the DSHA Block Grants for COVID relief have run out, Short hopes to take advantage of other programs available from DSHA and local government agencies.

Pursuing funding, taking care of her residents and maintaining Lighthouse for Broken Wings make for 20-hour days for Short, but she says she doesn’t mind going on little sleep.  “I’ve been doing it since I was a child.  I need to feel like I’m being useful.”

Media inquiries

Laurie M. Stovall
Director of Public Relations
Toll-Free (888) 363-8808

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