On the Picket Line

Homeless Delaware poultry plant workers face eviction

By Dave Salner
January 16, 2023

MILLSBORO, Del. — In a statement printed in the Jan. 2 Militant, Ilona Gersh, Socialist Workers Party candidate for Chicago mayor, points to the need for conditions that allow young workers to begin families, including affordable housing.

This is an urgent plank in the party’s program. The lack of affordable housing during an icy winter will mean real hardship for some workers in this area’s poultry industry. This was clear from a Dec. 22 Delaware Public Media story. “Milford’s largest homeless encampment will be cleared in January,” it said.

The encampment roughly doubled in size over the past year, with nearly 40 people now living in tents spread across a few acres of forest at the end of a dirt road on the outskirts of Milford. The article explains that the encampment’s residents include a significant number of people who work at the Perdue poultry processing plant in Milford. The plant employs 1,500 workers and processes 100,000 birds a day.

The land was recently bought by a new owner who wants the encampment closed. There are few alternatives for those living there. As the only shelter in the city, it has only 10 open beds and is closed during the day, meaning you can’t store anything there.

Martha Gery, director of Milford Advocacy for the Homeless, was able to delay the clearance until mid-January. Finding new places to live and store belongings for the encampment’s residents will be difficult, especially for those who have work schedules that leave them limited time to pack up their tents, as well as for those with disabilities.

“We have a larger number than ever of people who are working,” Gery said. “They will only have nights to do these tasks — in the dark — or the weekends, if they don’t work weekends. But many of them do.”