Community profile: Denise Stryker

Morgan Smith


In just the last year, the Clinton County Homeless Shelter has served 45,000 meals to 298 area residents, 48 of which were children. With 5 full-time and 4 part-time staff members and a $315 thousand operating budget, the shelter works to alleviate homelessness and its effects on individuals in the community.

“The shelter is here in Clinton County and we need your help,” said Denise Stryker, director of the Clinton County Homeless Shelter. Stryker has been part of the staff since 1994. Stryker visited Wilmington College last week to speak to students in the Honors Seminar entitled Non-profit Industry.

Staff payroll and food for their 24/7 pantry are the shelter’s largest expenses. The Homeless Shelter receives funding from United Way and grants, but Stryker said its main fundraisers are the Clinton County Cardboard City and the WC Cardboard Village. One particular grant the shelter receives is based on a stipulation that volunteers will match the amount given.

Stryker said that many of the volunteers she sees are those people who had previously been helped by the shelter. Currently, its facilities can accommodate 34 people in the main house, 14 in the men’s house, and soon they will have a new facility in which the pantry and offices will be located.

Clinton County has “hidden homeless,” as Stryker puts it; these citizens are not necessarily sleeping on the streets but rather they are staying with friends and family for short periods of time, living in their vehicles, or sleeping in abandoned buildings. If Clinton County residents come to the shelter, they are allowed a stay of 90 days, though the average is 36 days.

All the residents of the shelter must awake at 6 a.m. to begin work on their daily chores and to pursue a job. Each resident also is assigned a case manager that aids them in making a budget as well as finding job openings. The rate of return for residents was seven percent in 2011; Stryker said this was due to illness preventing work.

“We have seen an increase in individuals who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and mental health problems,” said Stryker. The homeless shelter now receives a $10 thousand grant to cover mental health support.

The Clinton County Homeless Shelter will take donations any time and of any kind. However, the most needed items are canned goods, clothing, diapers and cleaning supplies. If you would like further information on what the shelter is doing to help Clinton County’s homeless population, visit their Facebook page or sign up for their newsletter.

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