Family Promise aims to change how Delawareans view homelessness - Technical.ly Delaware

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Aug. 16, 2018 12:50 pm

Family Promise aims to change how Delawareans view homelessness

The nonprofit's multi-platform “Hidden in Delaware” campaign puts powerful messages on everything from Instagram to billboards.

Instagram is a key part of the Hidden in Delaware campaign.

(Screenshot)

There’s a stereotypical image of homelessness: It may involve mental illness or addiction or unfortunate life choices, and most of the time, that image is of an adult.

Family Promise of Northern New Castle County is here to let you know that the full picture includes “hidden” homelessness, including children and families — both one- and two-parent — and low-wage workers you interact with every day.

“We’ve crunched the numbers, and it turns out that in Delaware alone, about 1 in 30 kids will experience homelessness every year,” said Ryan Catalani, Family Promise NNCC’s director of donor relations. “That’s an average of 18 kids who become homeless every day in Delaware.”

The nonprofit’s new awareness campaign, Hidden in Delaware, is working to pull the issue out of the shadows.

"When you stop at the drive-through on your way home from your son's soccer practice, the person who is taking your order may go home to a shelter. When you fight your bill with Comcast, that person might be living in a motel at the time."
Carolyn Gordon, Family Promise NNCC

You may have seen a Hidden in Delaware billboard encouraging you to go online and learn more at hiddende.org, where you can find statistics, read stories of real Delaware families who have been touched by homelessness and sign up for email updates.

“We want to give people a more accurate image of what homelessness looks like in the First State,” said Catalani.

Carolyn Gordon, executive director of Family Promise NNCC, notes that the issue is often structural. And yet, “There’s the attitude of ‘What did you do to land yourself in this situation?'” she said.

Gordon says our perception of those experiencing homelessness is often wrong.

“You might not experience homelessness, but you come in contact with it every day,” she said. “When you stop at the drive-through on your way home from your son’s soccer practice, the person who is taking your order may go home to a shelter. When you fight your bill with Comcast, that person might be living in a motel at the time. That patient care coordinator at Christiana Care that you’re interacting with, they’re bouncing around with their children. And all of these stories are true, because they’ve all been people we’ve served at Family Promise.”

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Social media is, of course, a major part of the campaign. Catalani decided to focus on Instragram, where a dedicated HiddenDE account encourages followers to share brightly colored images that reveal hidden awareness messages when the user downloads the image and shares it on Instagram using a filter.

A screenshot of the "hidden" images in the campaign's Instagram account.

A screenshot of the “hidden” images in the campaign’s Instagram account.

One of the challenges with a campaign like Hidden in DE for both Gordon and Catalani was to create something that grabs people’s attention — without being exploitative.

“We’re not going to blast out these pictures of sad children crying and go about it as a thing where it’s guilting people,” Gordon said. “People usually aren’t compelled to do something from that angle. And even if they do, that’s not the Family Promise way.”

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