New city office to aid housing, assist homeless

As a result of two city government departments being combined, Salisbury now has an office to help the homeless find services they need.

“For the first time in the city’s history, a position has been filled … which focuses solely on helping Salisbury’s homeless population,” Mayor Jake Day said.

Filling that position is Theo Williams, formerly the city’s grants manager and now Housing and Homelessness manager, working in the newly formed Housing and Community Development department.

Susan Phillips is the director.

Housing and Community Development is the result of Day merging the City’s Neighborhood Services and Code Compliance and Community Development departments. The office is in the old Hess Building at 207 West Main St.

“This is one piece of the pie. There were a lot of areas not getting the attention they needed,” Day said.

“The idea behind the mayor’s move to combine the offices is to take the work we’re doing with code enforcement and with community development and funding and financing and merge the two together. That enables the city to act with more agility when we have a new property that comes into the city, that the city acquires to rehab or sell,” Williams explained

“The work I’m doing is focusing on homelessness, so that I’m overseeing a new program,” he said.

Anybody who is homeless can be directed to dozens of resources through his office, which will provide only one service, housing.

“It can be a rather confusing network. Everything with homelessness is done on a tri county level but most of the resources are in Wicomico County. It’s a new endeavor for the city, one that is much needed and we’re very fortunate to have strong leadership to identify the need,” Williams said.

“I’m beginning to take on a bit of street outreach along with our partners. For example, Donna Clark of H.O.P.E. has been involved in the homeless community 10 or 15 years now,” Williams said.

H.O.P.E is an acronym for Hope and Outreach Point of Entry.

Day said landlord fees paid to the city were increased for the first time in a decade. “The city was spending more money than was coming in,” he said. The homeless program is being funded, in part, by those increases, Williams said.

The merger of the departments “provides the city’s neighborhood revitalization specialists with community development funds and allows them to expand their available resources to enhance the quality, safety and livability of local neighborhoods,” Day said.

“It brings another key piece of city government Downtown, to the heart of Salisbury. We have removed duplicative costs while removing artificial barriers within government,” Day said.

“Under the leadership of department Director Phillips, I am confident that new resources in our efforts to comfortably house all Salisbury residents with dignity will help to reduce homelessness, improve access to affordable housing, and improve neighborhood integrity,” he said.

No jobs were lost due to the merger and there were no demotions. Staff members’ e-mail addresses and phone numbers will be the same.

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