Firefly Festival Attracts Tourists, Displaces Homeless - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Firefly Festival Attracts Tourists, Displaces Homeless

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(Photo: MGN) (Photo: MGN)
DOVER, Del. -- Kent County community leaders say some members of Dover's homeless community are being forced to find alternative shelter as summer music festivals kick off.

Normally a number of homeless individuals and families find shelter at motels because they're affordable, according to Code Purple Kent County Director Rebecca Martin. Motel rooms can go for about $65 per night.

But with the Firefly Festival kicking off June 18, followed by two more music festivals the next weekend, motel rates are going up as high as $105 in some places.

Even though Dover has hosted Firefly since 2012, Martin says the shelter situation is harder this year.

"We understand it's going to be up to 95,000 [people] that will come into the Dover area. So the motels are already booked and our people are being put out, so they definitely need some type of shelter," said Martin.

So local nonprofits, along with help from Delaware's social services department and housing authority, are providing shelter to those homeless individuals at the Milford Community Center starting Thursday June 18 through Monday June 22.

Martin says the state will also help provide free transportation in addition to financial donations.

"DART has offered us free bus transportation so that the people will be bused free down to Milford and back on Monday," said Martin.

The free DART shuttle service will pick passengers up at the Blue Hen Corporate mall parking lot, near Jake's Hamburgers June 18 at 5pm.

On Monday June 22, the bus will return from Milford and drop passengers off at the same location by 10am.

Eric Rombalski is taking advantage of the offer. He says he was hired to work at Firefly last year but didn't get a call back for more work this time around. Now the festival that afforded him shelter last year, is forcing him to look for another bed elsewhere.

"Sometimes I crash underneath the bridge," Rombalski said, "but sometimes you got to go in the motels most times. But the prices are so high for the motels right now that you can't afford them."

But not all of the city's displaced homeless can afford to leave Dover, even for a few days of guaranteed shelter and food.

One such person is Kristy, who wished only to give her first name. Kristy is homeless and works at a McDonald's in Dover that typically affords a roof over her head, mainly a motel.

But since Kristy can't miss work to go to Milford, she says she'll be pitching a tent somewhere.

"If I miss my job then it's a it's a double whammy. I don't have nowhere to live, and then I don't have a job and then I can't bring myself up," she said.

Although there are homeless shelters in Dover, there aren't enough to accommodate everyone.

"If we had these shelters and we had the room in our shelters, we wouldn't be opening these emergency shelters because we would already be able to house them," said Martin.

Martin says about 18 displaced homeless men and single women have signed up for shelter at the Milford Community Center as of Wednesday afternoon. She says even though the Code Purple Kent County coalition formed as a way to help unsheltered families and individuals during the winter months, "Code in Need" is now the mission of the organization, offering shelter resources at any time or season of the year.

Martin and the Milford Community Center say food donations are still needed and can be dropped at Dover Interfaith Mission until 1 pm June 18.

Breakfast items: cereal, waffles, french toast sticks, syrup, PopTarts, granola bars, milk.

Lunch items: bread, lunch meat, peanut butter & jelly, tuna, flip- top cans of ravioli, spaghetti, etc., ramen noodles.

Pretzels, chips and crackers.

Powdered drinks.

Dinner: Entrees in foil pans that be warmed and can serve 15.

Desserts: Cookies, cupcakes, cakes and pies.

Volunteers are also needed to cover shifts between 9pm to 7am. Interested parties can contact (302) 339-0123 for more information. 
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