Jeanine Kleimo thought she was just going to facilitate a meeting of representatives from area churches who were interested in finding shelter for homeless men. Now seven years later, Kleimo chairs the Interfaith Dover Mission for Housing. More than 40 faith communities work together to feed and house thousands of men especially on the coldest nights of the year. She calls the commitment of people from a number of faith communities and organizations “impressive.”
Tell us about the first meeting that grew out of the men’s groups providing volunteers and supplies to cold-weather shelters
Those who participated were eager to prevent their good work from ending. We negotiated with the City of Dover and with four Dover-area churches to open for about 10 weeks from January to March. This expanded beyond the original churches to include other faith communities, which then took turns providing meals and staffing. After the winter experience, we all met and agreed that there was a year-round need for shelter for men and that we would form a nonprofit corporation to do this.
What is the most important impact the shelter has on Kent County/Dover?
There are really two areas of impact. First, and most obvious, is the impact on homeless men. Well over 1,000 men have been sheltered and assisted to regain productive lives, with more than 60 percent securing jobs and contributing to the local economy. Second, and less obvious, is the impact on all of us who are engaged in this mission. We have learned a great deal about cooperating with one another, trusting people whose faith traditions and experiences are different from our own, and about acting on faith that things will “work.”
What is one key thing people should know about the mission that they might not know?
Most homeless individuals are capable of contributing to the community. “Our men” not only are actively seeking employment, but do a considerable amount of volunteer work to keep things operating, as our resources and staff are very limited.