Today, Fort Lauderdale votes to declare this National Homeless and Hunger Awareness Week. That's an anemic response to weeks of protest from a city that has made headlines for passing laws regulating how its homeless can be fed. Its main shelter features only 230 temporary beds. But the county has reported more than 2,700 homeless residents this year.
A count from January 2012 (located at the bottom of this page) put the county's homeless population at 3,183, ranking Broward the sixth-highest in homeless populations among Florida's counties. (Hillsborough was number one.) The homeless population here decreased 12 percent between 2012 and 2013, to 2,810.
In fact, if you check the numbers on Broward County's different pages, you would think the county actually has no idea how many homeless people there are. On a page highlighting Homeless and Hunger Awareness Month, the county cites a Point-in-Time check from January 2014 that reported an increase to 3,801 homeless individuals.
Yet, another official report from 2014 (located at the bottom of page two) puts the number of homeless at 2,766. In that one, the county claimed it was participating in the same "100,000 Homes" campaign that led to Salt Lake City, Utah, reducing its rate of chronic homelessness by 74 percent. The goal was to move all chronically homeless off the street by July 2014. The Sun Sentinel reported in March that about 101 permanent residences had been identified so far.
No matter if the number is 2,800 or 3,800, one fact remains: The county's public and privately funded shelters don't have enough beds to house the homeless population.
Here's a breakdown of those shelters:
- Broward Partnership Shelter: a short-term housing facility with 230 beds, located in Fort Lauderdale, which claims to serve 1,000 individuals each year, with 899 individuals and families receiving "emergency shelter services" in 2013.
Aside from temporary beds, the Broward Homeless Initiative Partnership shelter also provides "three nutritious meals a day," health care that includes therapy for families and individuals, dental care, cosmetic services like haircuts, job training and employment locating services, a library, a clothing room, and financial literacy, stress management, and other life skills classes.
- Broward Outreach Center Hollywood: a "full-service facility" with 140 beds total, 90 for men and 50 for women and children in a center next to the men's building. When New Times called to confirm the bed count, one employee hung up, then transferred the call two more times before a final employee refused to confirm the bed count and recommended calling back.
- Broward Outreach Center Pompano Beach: a 200-bed "state of the art" facility for men, women, and families. The Broward Outreach Centers are designed for eight-week stays with averages of about 60 days for most residents. The three Broward Outreach Centers are funded by the Miami Rescue Mission, a nonprofit that made about $20 million and spent about $19 million last year, according to the nonprofit database GuideStar.
The Homeless Shelter Directory, an organization that gleans shelter and service locations in cities across America, includes these other locations for Fort Lauderdale and surrounding cities in Broward:
- The Salvation Army of Fort Lauderdale: off Broward Boulevard, which makes this shelter the closest to downtown, where most of the public food sharings take place. When called, a shelter rep told New Times they have eight emergency beds for men and eight for women but could not give an official number for "transitional housing" available. The shelter also offers food, casework, domestic violence, and maternity services.
- Covenant House Florida: Located right off the beach, this short-term shelter for "at-risk youth under 21 including teen parents and their babies" features 30 beds for men, 30 for women. When called, a spokesperson confirmed homeless individuals can stay as long as needed if they follow guidelines. The shelter provides "counseling, case management, substance abuse intervention, parenting education, job readiness training, life skills instruction, transportation assistance, and a transitional housing program that includes two years of independent living in furnished apartments with 16 beds."
- Lutheran Services of Florida Lippman Youth Center: a short-term, 20-bed facility with ten for young men and ten for young women in Oakland Park. The shelter is available for youth between ages 12 and 17 and will usually accept those with misdemeanors but not felonies.
- South Florida Veterans Multi-Purpose Center: A Davie-based family services center that offers programming and weekend retreats for veterans that include peer counseling, family counseling, and equine therapy, as well as substance abuse programs and more.
- COSAC Homeless Voice Shelter: A Hollywood-based shelter that offers 450 beds total and provides 45,000 meals a month, according to COSAC Founder Sean Cononie and the shelter site. The site also claims the Homeless Voice newspaper, which employs the 500 homeless served daily by having them write, edit, and vend a street newspaper, providing temporary employment while also educating the public on homelessness.
Add all those crisis, short-term, and long-term beds available together with the 101 permanent residences marked for the chronically homeless and the county has nowhere near the amount of beds it needs to get all its homeless off the streets by its own deadline, or to keep half of them off the streets on any given night.
To Fort Lauderdale's credit, it's one of 235 communities participating in the 100,000 homes campaign to end homelessness. Starting in March with 101 permanent residences, calls for more recent numbers were not returned by the county's Homeless Partnership Initiative administrator Michael Wright or 100,000 Homes spokesperson Jake Maguire.
But compared to Jacksonville, which joined the 100,000 Homes campaign in November 2011 and exceeded its own goal by housing 761 homeless as of July, Fort Lauderdale is falling short of "having the County's chronically homeless off the streets by 2015," as Wright expects.
Money may be the biggest reason why: It cost $440,000 in a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to afford five apartments in Fort Lauderdale's 100,000 Homes campaign. So far this year, 6,986 homes have been foreclosed across Broward, according to the property appraiser's most recent count.
While a step in the right direction, a Homeless and Hunger Awareness Week will likely do little to impact Fort Lauderdale's chronic homeless problem.
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