KEY WEST CITIZEN ~ 07/17/2011
Program Teaches Husbands, Dads
How to be Loving
Thirty men with nowhere else to sleep, for now, shared memories of the violence that haunts them. One admitted aloud to the beatings he had doled out, while a few others relived taking beatings from their fathers.
"He smacked my mother around," one man said quietly, his fellow halfway house residents in rapt attention, seated in straight-backed chairs.
"My son is 24 and he says it's too late for me to be a father," another man said.
A third man simply confessed, "I done a lot of wrong."
It isn't exactly the stuff of conversations heard around the bar stools, crack pipes or jail houses.
And it wasn't a pity party or a confession session under the facilitation of Tony Porter, an educator and speaker from A Call to Men, a New York-based organization that sent him to Key West last week.
"Abuse is a choice, particularly in domestic violence," Porter told the crowd, men who are rebuilding their lives through the comprehensive residential program offered at the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition Inc. (FKOC). "It's not a mental illness. It's not an 'anger management' problem."
Porter, 54, grew up in a rough neighborhood during New York City's heroin epidemic, when his brother's and cousin's brief lives were cut down by violence. A longtime substance abuse counselor, Porter added, "Abusing your wife or your girlfriend, that's a choice that a man makes. There's a lot of people who push our buttons that we don't put our hands on because there are consequences. We know who we can hit and we know who we can't hit."
Porter, who also preached responsibility and "healthy manhood" to high school boys in Key West in April, was invited most recently by the Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys, a safe haven for traumatized women.
Tom Sterner, a local Catholic priest, co-hosted the Thursday night event at the FKOC complex and Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward's office split the costs of Porter's trip with the shelter.
Domestic violence is part of the language of recovery from trauma, alcoholism and drug addiction, said Sterner, the men's program case manager at FKOC, which houses men in recovery at its New Town complex.
"Secrets," said Sterner, who nearly died on the streets of Key West eight years ago while homeless and battered by alcoholism. "I had skeletons in the closet to the point where I had to bolt and lock the door to close it. Now it's just a few things in there."
One of only two women in the room was shelter CEO Venita Garvin-Valdez. While she spends the bulk of her time empowering women who are abused, battered and stranded, Garvin-Valdez said the event was part of the cure for domestic violence.
"It's necessary," she replied, when asked if she was going beyond the call of duty by reaching out to men.
The toll on women from domestic violence remains staggering: Battering is the chief major cause of injury to women in the United States, exceeding rapes, muggings and auto crashes combined, shelter officials said.
A woman is more likely to be killed by a boyfriend or husband -- or an ex -- than any other person in her life, and some 4,000 women die each year due to domestic violence.
Others in the Key West social services realm said domestic violence is an underlying cause of homelessness.
"A Call to Men delivers a powerful message to males of all ages that real men don't beat up women, abuse children or harm men because they happen to be of a different sexual orientation, skin color or even homeless," said the Rev. Stephen Braddock, FKOC's president and CEO.
South Florida has the nation's highest rate of violent crimes against the homeless, Braddock said, "and virtually all of those hideous acts have been committed by young males."
Porter told the halfway house clients that he understands where physical violence comes from, and that it is not as simple as knowing right from wrong when men are trained at a young age to express anger instead of fear or pain.
"It's a lot like a blanket on a cold night," Porter said. "We want that anger, but it's killing us. It will keep you sick and suffering."
Those who have lived through trauma can recover and help others who are still struggling, Porter said, much like the near-century-old practice of one sober alcoholic helping another. Porter said he has been clean and sober for 25 years, and that he spent nearly a year in a halfway house after entering a rehabilitation program.
Now an activist and speaker in the national movement to end domestic violence, Porter noted he didn't learn the language of a chaotic childhood through schoolbooks. Porter said he grew up with a father who provided material things, but left his wife to teach his son lessons of responsibility.
In his neighborhood, girls and women were often treated as the property of their boyfriends and husbands.
While Porter's father kept the family fed and housed, he never told his son he loved him.
"Eighty percent of (male) abusers were abused," Porter said. "Where do we, as men, step up and say, 'It ends with me'?" The typical American boy is more often than not discouraged from crying or admitting he feels pain because such emotions often are perceived as signs of weakness, "when in reality, he is an abundance of emotions," Porter said. "They come out sideways: As anger, lust, materialism."
Porter told the FKOC clients to accept the help available to them at the residential program and from 12-step programs, and work each day on resolving long-held resentments. They have to get better to help the next generation, he said.
"You can take what has been a terrible time and turn it into a gift," Porter said. "Hold tight there, man. Hold tight. Three years from now, all these things that are bad, you will be using for good. All of it becomes wisdom."
KEY WEST CITIZEN ~ 07/10/2011
Help for the homeless manifold -
While her 6-year-old daughter proudly shows off her seashell collection to a morning visitor, Lydia Padro weeps.
The grateful smile and stoic composure with which Padro had beamed just a moment earlier vanishes as the painful reality of just a year ago comes back.
She is safe now, at her kitchen table as the Key West rainy season presses on outside the transitional housing she has just landed from the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition (FKOC), the nonprofit that works triage for the chronically homeless in the Florida Keys .
The Keys have attained the painful statistic as the county with the highest per-capita rate of homelessness in Florida .
Padro and her daughter, Isis, are considered an "intact family," a category that makes up 40 percent of the state's nearly 86,000 homeless population, while 60 percent are single men and women, according to the most recent count sent to FKOC.
Almost a quarter of the total homeless community in the Sunshine State is made up of children just like Isis, who collects seashells from the local beaches and is a confident winner at the board game Trouble.
Padro is in one of 54 beds in two buildings in the Poinciana neighborhood that also includes temporary housing for single dads with children.
During a conversation inside the family room she shares with another family, Padro weeps at the memory of what rendered her homeless in Monroe County last year. It came after she had buried her mother in New York and found herself without the means to remain in her mother's home.
Padro bundled up Isis and headed to Marathon , home to the only blood relatives she had left.
Like tens of thousands of other homeless women with children, Padro never imagined that her life would take the twists and turns that left her without any other option but an emergency shelter.
"I had a beautiful apartment when my mother got cancer," said Padro, 48, recalling Greenwich Village and other parts of Manhattan , where she grew up after being born in Puerto Rico . "The chemo, the radiation -- I gave up my apartment and we went to stay with her. I didn't think she would die right away."
But staying in Marathon with her sister, who was raising three older daughters, wasn't working out. Padro said she felt she was imposing.
Nowhere to go
With no car and a job at a Key West fast-food restaurant, Padro found herself with no place to go.
"I heard of Samuel's House," she said, referring to another nonprofit based in the same Poinciana neighborhood as her FKOC housing. That was in October, when Padro arrived and met Elmira Leto, who runs Samuel's House, which takes in homeless women and children.
Leto provided Padro with a used Ford Expedition, but Padro said her college-bound daughter in Marathon needed it more than she did.
So Padro, for seven months, walked to her job at McDonald's through the heat and rain. She walked to pick up her daughter from child care at the Wesley House-run center.
Padro is now in "Phase 3" of the FKOC transitional housing program that offers comprehensive services to struggling families that begin with a safe and clean bed and bath. The nonprofit is embedded in 12-step recovery programs that empower those suffering from alcoholism and other addictions.
On June 15, Padro collected a medallion that fits into the palm of her hand: A one-year chip to go with her anniversary of continuous sobriety.
Housing a family
Last week, FKOC threw out the rule book and created a single-family home for a young couple with a 3-year-old son and a month-old baby girl. Usually it's women housed with women and men with men.
"Thank God, and thank you guys, too," the dad said on a recent morning as the Rev. Stephen Braddock, FKOC's president and CEO, greeted them inside their new home.
Braddock, a former private investigator in New York turned Roman Catholic priest and full-time homeless advocate, checked out the apartment's details. The stove was unacceptable, he determined.
"I want that out of here; that's too old," Braddock told a colleague. While exiting the home in the rain, he spotted another unacceptable item from the corner of his eye.
"That light needs a shield," he noted while walking with visitors seeing the complex for the first time.
Braddock said FKOC is about helping the most vulnerable people rebuild their lives. The underlying causes of homelessness are alcoholism, drug addiction and other afflictions that rob a suffering soul of the ability to ask for help, he believes.
Several FKOC staff members entered the Key West facilities as clients just a few years ago.
Shelter isn't all
Braddock, who said he sleeps five hours a night, in June 2004 reluctantly took over the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter (KOTS), which houses up to 150 homeless men and women a night on the sheriff's property on Stock Island .
It's an emergency center that doesn't require clients to be sober or clean, and it's not the program that Braddock wants the public to interpret as the norm when it comes to the homeless.
Healing the underlying causes of homelessness, Braddock said, takes more than a free place to sleep. KOTS does not reflect the holistic approach to healing that FKOC provides through services and communication with a network of nonprofits Keyswide, he said.
Even at KOTS, however, men and women ground down to nothing are offered comprehensive services: state identification card applications, food stamps, flu shots, hepatitis tests.
Twelve-step recovery meetings are held almost nightly.
"It's a captive audience with the goal of getting them transitional housing," Braddock said.
The fastest-growing population of homeless in Florida is children. "Intact families" are also finding themselves doubling or tripling up with relatives, such as Padro and Isis did, or bouncing from couches to floors.
The state's homeless shelters -- 9,000 emergency shelter beds and 13,000 transitional housing spots -- are leaving most of the 86,000 homeless out in the cold, Braddock said.
Finding housing for an "intact" family, though, became a priority for Braddock's staff last week. FKOC's staff decided to make it happen in order to keep the couple with the newborn baby together rather than watch them go without a shared temporary home.
"When I see an intact family split up, that breaks my heart, because that's not what I had," said Braddock, raised in New York 's Westchester County .
Padro and her daughter share a kitchen and bathroom, but have their own private bedroom for their possessions. They sleep in bunk beds.
"It's really Isis ' room," Padro said, laughing as the girl padded around the warmly decorated town home, part of the former military family housing that FKOC painstakingly renovated to modern standards after Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
FKOC provides after-school care for Isis and a fluctuating number of children in transitional housing, while Padro pays $125 a week in rent, a requirement from the nonprofit.
"It's to keep the lights on," said Stephanie Kaple, the women's case manager at FKOC. "Everybody pays something to get where they are. By no means are we making any money."
Children like Isis seem to immediately adapt to the transitional housing at FKOC, where the case managers and support staff who care for their parents become a surrogate family.
"This is home," said Mary Jane Price, who runs the children's activities center at the FKOC complex. "The children don't look at themselves as homeless. They live in Poinciana."
Padro is working toward finding an affordable -- and permanent -- rental in Marathon , along with a steady job. For now, she said she likes working the lobby at the fast-food place. She likes the customers and enjoys the work.
"I get better every day," Padro said, her tears dry. "A lot of things that I pray for come true, slowly but surely. I read a meditation book every day. I was depressed, but I'm happy now."
Homeless Coalition Honors Salazar as Unsung Hero
Photo by Peter Arnow,
Courtesy of CFFK
The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition recently honored volunteer Pablo Salazar during the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys Annual "Unsung Heroes" awards luncheon.
(L-R) Sam Kaufman, Salazar, Nancy Banks, Diana Sutton, Peter Bell, and Rev. Stephen Braddock
"Homeless and socially excluded people have to cope with many afflictions and obstacles that hold them back and destroy their confidence.", FKOC President Rev. Stephen Braddock said, "Poor literacy is a major contributing factor to homelessness. We honor and thank Pablo for giving very generously of his time tutoring our clients to learn or improve their English."
Senate Hearing Examines Hate Crimes Against People Experiencing Homelessness
On September 29, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's Sub-Committee on Crime and Drugs held a hearing entitled "Crimes Against America's Homeless: Is the Violence Growing?" Panelists included legislators, law enforcement officers, academics, researchers, and family members of people victimized while experiencing homelessness. The hearing contributed to ongoing deliberations in both the Senate and the House of Representatives on the Hate Crimes Against the Homeless Statistics Act of 2009, which proposed amending the Hate Crimes Statistics Act to include crimes against people experiencing homelessness. If passed, the legislation will require the Attorney General to collect data on hate crimes against this population.
Our Congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lethinen, co-sponsored the House version of the bill at our request.
- Watch the hearing
New law, task force aim to protect homeless
Friday, October 1, 2010
BY ADAM LINHARDT Citizen Staff
Protections for the homeless are better today than yesterday.
A new law went into effect today that includes the homeless under the state's existing hate crimes act , and protecting the homeless will be part of the mission of the new Anti-Hate Crimes Task Force in Key West .
The state hate crimes act will increase criminal penalties for those who victimize people because they are homeless. For example, a second-degree felony could get bumped to a first-degree felony -- which could mean the difference between 15 and 30 years in prison. The law already protected people based on age, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.
Jim Boyts, a formerly homeless man in Key West , was nearly killed in 2004 when he was beaten while sleeping in Mallory Square . Jeffrey Jay Carbonell is serving a 10-year prison term for the attack.
"A hate crime is a hate crime," Boyts said. "Be it skin color, religion, gay or homeless. We're all one human family and deserve to be treated right, so I'm pleased that the homeless are getting more protection. It's another tool."
The Rev. Steven Braddock, CEO of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless , said he has been lobbying state legislators to include the homeless in the hate crimes act for years. The focus now needs to turn to Monroe County schools , Braddock said.
"This is a very positive step in the right direction, but there is still a lot to do," he said. "I think everyone agrees that we can address the problem through law enforcement and the Legislature , but it will only be fixed in our homes, schools and churches."
That sentiment was echoed at a recent anti-violence meeting at the Metropolitan Community Church . The meeting and the task force were sparked by a series of attacks on gay men.
Though the task force is being spearheaded primarily by gay community leaders -- Gay and Lesbian Community Center (GLCC) President Mike Mongo, "One Human Family" creator J.T. Thompson and Key West police Community Affairs Officer Steve Torrence -- it will be all-inclusive to benefit all residents.
Thompson, who works with the GLCC, homeless shelter and a wide array of other civic groups in Key West , said he has been an outspoken advocate for the inclusion of everyone in the task force.
"Preventing street violence applies to all people," Thompson said.
Mongo said the inclusion of the homeless was only natural.
"We have people who are homeless and gay come by our center all the time, and part of our mission at the GLCC is to serve those in need who are in trouble," he said. "This completely fits our description."
The task force is still in its infancy and what shape it will take and how it will be most effective is still being hammered out among members, but everyone seems to agree that diversity training for youth is the best place to start.
Torrence said he already has talked with Monroe County Schools Superintendent Joe Burke, who said he is working with teachers, student groups and the police on how a new diversity program will work.
"I'm pleased, but I don't know if it will make a big difference," Boyts said of the new law and task force. "People are brought up to hate things and it's going to take a lot to change that."
Boyts suffered multiple fractures to his face and head as well as permanent scars in the attack. He was airlifted to Baptist Hospital 's trauma center in Miami , where he was in a coma for days.
"It's going to take more than a new law, newspaper articles and meetings," Boyts said. "Parents need to get together with the School Board, but it's a start. It's a good place to start."
November 27, 2009
Save Green by Going Green
(KW) The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition's main mission is to help as many homeless individuals and families as it can attain independence and self-sufficiency.
Thanks to grants received by FKOC over the past few years to improve energy efficiency and conservation, the money the organization's five transitional shelters are saving on utilities is helping offset some funding cuts and allowing FKOC to continue helping homeless people reach that goal.
Green improvements made thus far saved the organization almost $10,000 this past fiscal year, a 10% cost reduction. Included are Energy-Star rated central air conditioners, programmable thermostats, hot water heaters, and appliances.
In addition, thanks to funding made available through the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, forty-four 6-gallon toilet tanks, dating to the late 1960's, were replaced with 1.6 gallon low flow toilets.
Rev. Stephen E. Braddock, President of the FKOC, said the project has been very challenging at times, given that four of the organization's facilities are former Navy housing units at Poinciana Plaza . Each building includes four two story condo-like living spaces. "It's been a huge undertaking," he said.
In addition to the Poinciana Plaza buildings, the FKOC owns and operates the Neece Center for Homeless Recovery on Patterson Avenue . A grant awarded earlier this year by the Department of Children and Families Office on Homelessness allowed Braddock to recently install solar panels on the facility's roof, providing electric free hot water for the residents there.
And, on Tuesday, the Office on Homelessness announced that FKOC, as a member agency of the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League, has been awarded a $150,000 Emergency Shelter Grant.
$50,000 of the grant will be used to upgrade lighting in all of the Coalition's buildings to Energy-Star rated, energy efficient, and environmentally friendly products. "We expect to see a 56% energy savings as a result," Braddock said, "That got my attention!"
"The money saved through the greening of our facilities will help pay for basic operating expenses and supportive services for years to come," Braddock said. "These grants are truly gifts that keep on giving."
The FKOC provides transitional shelter and supportive services for homeless men, women and children. An impressive 80% transitioned to permanent housing last year.
Hate crime law may include homeless
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
BY ADAM LINHARDT Citizen Staff
Homeless people would be protected under the state hate crimes act if a bill passed Tuesday by the Florida House is approved by the Senate.
The state House of Representatives voted 80-28 in favor of the measure after 30 minutes of debate, despite one opponent reportedly asking why the "bums" deserved protection. An identical bill is headed to the Senate floor.
Under the bill, people who attack the homeless out of prejudice would face increased criminal penalties. For example, a second-degree felony would get bumped to a first-degree felony -- which could mean the difference between 15 and 30 years in prison, according to published reports.
Currently, hate-crime categories include race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and age.
Jim Boyts, formerly homeless in Key West , was happy to hear the news. Boyts was nearly killed in 2004 when he was beaten while sleeping at Mallory Square .
Jeffrey Jay Carbonell is serving a 10-year prison term for the attack.
"I'm hoping it does deter crimes like this," Boyts said. He now works for the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless (FKOC).
"I hope it makes people stop and think about it beforehand," he said. "If they do it, they ought to be eligible for as much punishment as the law allows."
Boyts suffered multiple fractures to his face and head and permanent scars. He was airlifted to Baptist Hospital 's trauma center in Miami and was in a coma for days.
It's still difficult for him to keep his balance and he can't ride his bicycle anymore, a former favorite pastime, but Boyts said he does have a roof over his head now.
FKOC's CEO, the Rev. Steven Braddock, applauded lawmakers Tuesday, saying such moves would help protect "one of the most vulnerable populations in our community."
Braddock, who has been lobbying the state for such protection, has been tracking crimes against the homeless for years. He said Florida has the highest number of such attacks nationwide.
The National Coalition for the Homeless in 2009 ranked Florida first in the nation -- for the fourth straight year -- in violence against the homeless. Published reports say there were 30 attacks, including three deaths, in Florida in 2008. Nationally, 106 attacks were reported that year.
In Tuesday's debate in the House, Rep. Paige Kreegle, R-Punta Gorda, was against the bill.
"[Crimes against the homeless] tend to be perpetrated not by members of the Legislature or women and children, but mainly by other homeless bums," Kreegle said.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs, said the term offended him and Kreegle did not use it again, according to published reports.
Wendy Coles, director of the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League, was "delighted that the (state) House passed the bill."
"Hopefully, the Senate, too, understands the importance of this law," Coles said Tuesday.
The bills stemmed from attacks in 2006 in which Broward County teenagers beat three homeless men, one of whom died, with baseball bats. More recently, three Florida teenagers were arrested Sunday on second-degree murder charges in the beating death of a 52-year-old homeless man. They are being held without bond in Bartow.
The Associated Press contributed to this story
Huffington Post: April 28th, 2010
As Homeless Are Brutalized, Florida Passes Hate Crime Protection
Florida is slated to become the largest state in the nation to add the homeless to its list of those protected under its hate crime law. The Florida Senate passed a bill by a vote of 25-10 today that is identical to an earlier bill that cleared the State House of Representatives by a vote of 80-28. Republican Governor Charlie Crist has previously indicated that he would sign the bill and has fifteen days to do so. Florida, with a population of 18.5 million is the nation's fourth largest state by population.
According to limited data reported to the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), Florida has led the nation in apparent prejudice motivated violence against the homeless for the past four years. In 2008, three homeless people were killed in these types of attacks, with another two dozen experiencing non-lethal victimizations in ten cities throughout the state. In contrast, according to the FBI, seven people were killed nationally in hate crime attacks covering race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and disability combined. Neil Donovan, Executive Director of the NCH in Washington, DC, stated, "Until today Florida has been known as one of the biggest states for crimes against the homeless, starting tomorrow it will be known as one of the states doing the most to protect them" His organization is expected to release a national report on hate crime against the homeless in late May.
This month has seen violence against the homeless make headlines across the nation. In New York surveillance video captured a homeless good Samaritan come to the aid of a woman being attacked by a knife wielding assailant, only to be stabbed himself. While not a hate crime, the bleeding wounded man was casually ignored by passersby who failed to do anything to assist him as he lay dying in the street. In Los Angeles, Ben Martin was sentenced today for setting a popular mentally disabled homeless man named John McGraham on fire with gasoline in October 2008. Yesterday, military police turned over a soldier to authorities for a brutal attack on a homeless man in Cincinnati on April 10.
Leading hate crime scholars are increasingly regarding prejudice based attacks against the homeless as hate crimes. Prof. Barbara Perry of the University of Toronto Institute of Technology and author of In The Name of Hate, believes that the homeless like other hate crime victims are attacked "because they are perceived as a threat." Northeastern University sociologist Jack Levin (no relation) contends, "When we treat attacks based on homelessness as a hate crime, we send a message both to the perpetrator and the victim that we will no longer tolerate the cruel and inhumane treatment of our most vulnerable citizens."
Sandra Wachholz of the University of Southern Maine recently wrote,"[T]here has been a long tradition of singling out the homeless for hate motivated treatment and injurious acts."
Two brutal Florida cases were prominently featured in a 2006 60 Minutes story by Ed Bradley which included killings of the homeless in different parts of the state by youths who sought them out for attack. In January 2006, one set of youths was captured on surveillance video attacking a homeless man with baseball bats in Fort Lauderdale. One of their other victims that night 45 year old Norris Gaynor died from extensive blunt force trauma injuries. In another Florida case featured in the story from 2005 , 53 year old Michale Roberts was beaten to death by four teenagers over a three hour period in Holly Hill. One of the attackers pointed to a popular video series, "Bumfights" as something that significantly influenced his aversion to the homeless.
Florida's extension of protection of the homeless under its state's hate crime law comes at a time where violence against the homeless is increasingly an issue for state legislators. In California a bill is winding through the assembly that would add the homeless to a statute that provides various civil protections to victims of hate crime, but would not increase criminal penalties. Last October, Maryland, which along with Massachusetts were the first states to implement a comprehensive hate crime response nearly three decades ago, added homelessness to its state's hate crime law, and was soon followed by the District of Columbia. Maine, the first state to make targeting the homeless a hate crime, has a more narrow statute that grants non-binding discretion to the sentencing judge. Other jurisdictions taking administrative or statutory measures recognizing hate violence against the homeless include Cleveland, Seattle, Los Angeles County, Puerto Rico and Alaska. In recent years nearly a dozen states have seen legislation introduced to cover homelessness under state hate crime law. The three most populous states, California, Texas, and New York, saw bills introduced to make homelessness a protected category under hate crime statutes. Efforts to add the homeless to federal hate crime laws have failed due to a split in the civil rights community in Washington about such reform. Advocates, like the NCH's Neil Donovon remains optimistic, "This provides a state level road map for the federal government. This is leading by example and we really have to affirm the progress done at the state level"
FKOC Honors Mark Hartley, Volunteer of the Year
The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless recently honored volunteer Mark Hartley during the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys annual
Unsung Heroes Luncheon.
FKOC recognized Mark for his initiation and facilitation of life changing support groups at the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter
(KOTS). Thanks to his dedication and determination, the support program gives countless individuals a renewed sense of hope for a healthy life and a brighter future.
(L-R) CFFK Prsident, Dianna Sutton; FKOC President, Rev. Stephen Braddock; Honoree, Mark Hartley; FKOC Deputy Director, Gina Pecora; FKOC Program Manager, Nancy Banks; FKOC Chairman, Sam Kaufman.
Book Review: Cast Out: Vagrancy and Homelessness in Global And Historical Persepective by A.L. Beier and Paul Ocbock (ed.)
By Lauren Tatro, NCH Intern
This book is a collection of essays that discusses the topics of vagrancy, homelessness, poverty and its global history. It starts out with an introduction on what the homeless have been called over the years. The names that homeless have been called according to this book were” beggars, bums, mendicants, idlers, indigents, itinerants, the underclass, and the homeless”.
Then it gives a nice introduction about vagrancy and the laws under it. It defines vagrancy laws as “ unique; while most crimes are defined by actions, vagrancy laws make no specific action or inaction illegal” (intro). It then explains that over the course of many centuries and across many countries the response to helping poverty has changed over the course of time. Some of the chapters in the book discuss the power of these vagrancy laws “as coercive engines in punishment and exploration; others highlight the failure of vagrancy policies at the hands of human agency, state incapacity, and persistent persona charity”.
A great deal of the history of vagrancy was setup in fourteenth century England during the Black Death, which killed a great number of people both rich and poor. In contrast, the Greek culture had a contrast between the poor population and its beggar population. The poor were normally small landowners with barely enough to get by and beggars were just landless people. During this time it was it was believed that it was the duty of the Church to take care of the poor and their needs. This is then contrasted with an example for before and during the medieval Islamic period when giving to the poor by the rich was a means of “poor relief and redistribution of the wealth”. It then went into speaking about the twentieth century and how the two World Wars had a huge impact on the issues of vagrancy and homelessness. During this time Europe and the Untied States encouraged “the development of a sedentary and permanent workforce and a blending of state and no state welfare schemes. Also this time changed people's perceptions of the poor and their personal freedoms. This presentation of ideas led into the social reforms of today and how the homeless have some social programs but more still needs to be done to completely rid the world of this global problem.
The book is broken down into chapters, which all start with a different country and its history on vagrancy and homelessness. Each gives a background on how the country progressed and the problems and improvements it had over the years. England is the first country that is discussed and then India, Brazil, Siberia, America, East Africa, China, New Guinea, and Japan. But England's history is described much further back in time than the other courtiers. England is also described in more detail about its labor laws and its progression of right for its working population. The other countries explained are in more current times and deal with more current issues. This book will open the eyes of its reader because it explains more in detail what issues different countries have had with vagrancy and homelessness and how they either helped or worsen the issues for their population over the years. It is very informative and will help many others understand the global history of vagrancy and homelessness.
NCH Announces New Executive Director
FKOC President Praises Stoops
The Board of Directors of the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) is pleased to announce that we have hired Neil Donovan as our new Executive Director. Michael Stoops, who has served as Executive Director for the past four years, will return to his former position and passion as Director of Community Organizing for NCH.
Neil Donovan has been working with and for persons experiencing homelessness for the past twenty-six years in positions ranging from a street outreach worker to executive director. His previous work includes administering transitional housing programs for the Pine Street Inn in Boston, the largest homeless service agency in New England, and administering employment and community programs at the Shattuck Shelter in Boston. He also worked as Senior Advisor at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness and was the first Director of the Center for Capacity Building at the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Michael Stoops has worked with persons experiencing homelessness since 1972. One of the prime forces behind the enactment of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act in 1987, Michael was on the Board of Directors of the National Coalition for the Homeless in the 1980’s and has worked on staff for NCH for the past 21 years, leading the cause of civil rights for persons experiencing homelessness as its Director of Community Organizing, interim Executive Director, and finally Executive Director. Michael is excited to be able to devote his full attention to organizing communities to preserve the rights of those who find themselves homeless while working to end homelessness.
“We are extremely fortunate to have the skills of these two long-time, passionate advocates for families and individuals experiencing homeless to lead the National Coalition during this period of national economic crisis to help us achieve our goal of ending homelessness in America” said John Parvensky, President of the NCH Board of Directors. “Their skills, along with those of the existing staff, interns and diverse Board of Directors at NCH, will complement each other, and allow the Coalition to maintain and expand its capacity to serve as the leading national voice of and for persons experiencing homelessness.:
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve one of our country’s most remarkable coalitions, made up of a wonderfully distinct and committed network of individuals and groups” said Donovan. “The Coalition is without equal, as both a leading national voice on homelessness as well as the channel through which the voices of people experiencing homelessness can and must be heard. I look forward to the important role and responsibility of supporting the Coalition’s staff, board and membership-at-large.”
Rev. Stephen Braddock, President of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition had high praise for Stoops. "Dr. Stoops is one of the most dedicated, tenacious and passionate advocates for the less fortunate I have ever known," he said. "He has taught me a great deal over the past ten years and I'm proud to call him my friend."
Episcopal Charities Renews Support for 2009
Episcopal Charities of Southeast Florida recently contributed $15,000 to support
Loaves and Fish Food Pantry,
an anti-hunger initiative founded in 2000 with
St. Paul's Church in Key West.
Fr. Steve thanks the Board of Directors of the S.E. Florida Episcopal Foundation for nine consecutive years of financial support. He made his remarks during the Foundation's "Mission of Grace" luncheon at Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach.
The Rev. Canon G. Kerry Robb (R) presents a
ceremonial check to Rev. Braddock
Susan Bleich Honored with SHAL's
Personal Acheivement Award
January 6, 2009...Shown flanked by Stephanie Kaple (l), Case Manager FKOC's Women's Program, and Parents, Janice and Howard Bleich; Sunflower House Monitor and Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter employee, Susan Bleich receives the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League Personal Achievement Award at SHAL's annual meeting.
Susan has been a client and Women's Program Monitor since 2005 and is now an employee of the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter. Susan has worked diligently to overcome her struggles with addiction, recover from homelessness, and has a deep commitment to finding personal happiness. In Susan's personal recovery, and in both of her positions as House Monitor and at KOTS, she puts a great deal of thought and care into her daily life. As an employee she is a trusted and reliable source of support for her co-workers. As an individual she is a remarkable woman who has found the courage to continually set new goals and search for personal happiness and improvement.
Tough Times Ahead as Homeless Numbers Grow
Editorial, Key West Citizen, December 6, 2008
Pastor Ernie DeLoach deserves special credit for the wonderful Thanksgiving dinner he and members of the Glad Tidings Community Church provided for the homeless. More than 250 homeless guests were treated to a sit-down dinner with white tablecloths, flowers, turkey and all the trimming. In addition, baskets filled with all the fixings for a full Thanksgiving meal to be cooked at home were provided to 120 families in need but not homeless. Year-round, the church provides breakfast for the homeless two days a week, provides free clothes, and allows homeless citizens to use the church address to receive mail.
There are countless others who deserve credit and thanks. St. Mary's Soup Kitchen provides one meal a day, every day. The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition provides services and temporary housing for 120 at five different locations. Samuel's House is a safe haven for women and children. The city and county provide the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter. The Southernmost Homeless Assistance League, made up of churches, county and municipal governments, law enforcement, social service agencies, the state attorney, public defender and others, coordinates efforts.
Key West is proud of all the advocates for the homeless, and the untiring work they have done. Key West can be proud of itself in the dramatic change of attitude toward the homeless it has shown over the past half-dozen years. Back in 2000-2002, Key West was on the Meanest Cities List of the National Coalition for the Homeless. Today, the organization looks upon Key West as a model city for its treatment of the homeless.
This is scary. If Key West can be called a model city when we have so many more homeless that need shelters, health care and psychiatric services than we can accommodate, and the homeless seem to dominate the landscape in several areas of town, then imagine how desperate the national problem must be. And the number of homeless is rapidly rising. All the local facilities are overcrowded, with numbers much higher than last year at this time. The situation is similar nationwide. Financial recession and an epidemic of home foreclosures have put many people out of work and on the street. Meanwhile, governments are cutting back on homeless spending, and charities are not receiving as many donations as they have in the past. This winter will be grim.
We are optimistic that the Obama administration will deliver on its pledge to increase middle-class jobs, up the minimum earnings, stall foreclosures and develop a health care system that works -- efforts that will help turn the tide of homelessness. But this will take time.
For now, what we can do is appreciate and support those who work hard to help the homeless survive. We can dig a little deeper in our own pockets to help these programs continue through this winter, when needs will be so great.
Donations can be directed to the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, P.O. Box 4767, Key West, FL 33041; Southernmost Homeless Assistance League, P.O. Box 2990, Key West, FL 33041; Samuel's House, 1514 Truesdell Court, Key West, FL 33040; churches and other charities.
-- The Citizen
Fr. STEVE LOBBIES
(Rev. Stephen Braddock (L) was welcomed to Washington D.C. this week by Philip Mangano(R), Executive Director of the United States Interagency Council and President Bush's Senior Advisor on Homelessness.)
(Washington,D.C. - July 2008) Rev. Stephen E. Braddock, President of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition (FKOC), is in the Nation's Capitol again this week urging Federal Officials and Law Makers to remedy a flawed funding allocation formula that leaves Monroe County homeless service providers severely under funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Since 2001, HUD has awarded more than $9 billion to support thousands of local housing and service programs throughout the nation and is seeking a record $1.6 billion for the Department's Continuum of Care grant programs for FY 2009. Monroe County's share has not increased at all during that period, and will continue to remain flat unless immediate steps are taken to address the inequity.
Director Mangano assured Braddock that he will revisit the issue with newly appointed HUD Secretary, Steve Preston. Preston was sworn in as the 14th Secretery of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on June 5, 2008 after being nominated by President Bush and confirmed unanimously by the Senate.
Braddock also wants to see a change to HUD's definition of homelessness. The current HUD definition only targets some of the most vulnerable because it excludes children and youth. The majority of homeless children and youth are not covered by the current HUD definition of homelessness.
"Nonprofit organization's such as FKOC, Samuel's House, Catholic Charities, and the Florida Keys Children's Shelter are not receiving anywhere near the level of Federal support as similiar homeless service providers throughout Florida and across the country," Braddock said.
"A revised definition would not create new demand; it would merely provide a correct portrait of current need. The definition of homelessness should not be determined by existing funding levels, but rather by the lived realities of people who lack housing," Braddock insists
Navy Helps Out
Photo courtesy of Balfour Beatty Communities
Volunteers from St. Peter Church on Big Pine Key load used appliances onto a truck last Friday at Sigsbee Park . The used appliances were donated by Naval Air Station Key West's housing partner Balfour Beatty Communities (BBC) to several local charities, including Habitat for Humanity and the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition. According to Ellie Cohen of BBC, the used appliances were removed from homes being readied for renovation at Trumbo Point. The donation included 22 refrigerators, 18 stoves, 16 dishwashers, and four hot water heaters.
A FINAL HOME FOR THE HOMELESS
Members of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition organized an internment ceremony for 18 homeless men and women who died over recent months without family or friends to claim their remains.
(Pictued L-R) Rev. Thomas Sterner, FKOC Case Manager; Rev. Ron Paige, FKOC Board Member; Samuel J. Kaufman, FKOC Board Chairman; Rev. Stephen E. Braddock FKOC President & CEO Officiating.
Advocacy group buying mausoleum vault
BY MANDY BOLEN
Advocates work to improve the quality of life for many of Key West's burgeoning homeless population. Now one local group also will improve the dignity of their deaths.
The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless (FKOC) is in the process of buying a vault in the city cemetery to house the cremated remains of homeless people who have used the coalition's services.
Cemetery Sexton Russell Brittain said a vault became available because the previous remains were removed for DNA testing, then placed into a different vault owned by Monroe County.
The county is responsible for cremating the remains of indigent residents, as well as the unidentified, and it maintains vaults to store the remains, Brittain said. Technically, the remains of the unidentified are the property of the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office, but once it releases the remains, the county becomes responsible, he said.
Restrictions govern the services that can be performed for homeless people. The Outreach Coalition does not want to be limited by those restrictions.
"On an as-needed basis, we'll be able to provide burial services for homeless people who, for whatever reason, have no family and have made no other arrangements," said Sam Kaufman, chairman of the group's board of directors. "We're doing this for people connected to FKOC or who have used our services. We want to be able to provide the burial ourselves so we're not restricted to having only six or 10 people in attendance."
Brittain said the city will agree to open the vault, which is on the top level of one of the city's mausoleums, a few times each year to inter the ashes of homeless people.
The vault, which will cost the coalition $2,400, will hold the individually boxed ashes of more than 300 people, Brittain said.
Over the past year, the outreach coalition lost about eight of its clients, said Executive Director Steve Braddock, who added that he has been wanting a vault for a long time.
The purchase is unrelated to the recent string of homeless deaths in Key West and the Lower Keys, he said.
"This is a really important issue, especially over the past six months," Kaufman said, adding that the last service the coalition conducted was for 16 deceased homeless people who were interred in a county-owned vault. "But it's an issue that is under the radar screen for most people. We feel very strongly about being able to provide a funeral for people we know. Everyone should have a proper burial."
The right ethical path is also fiscally sound
My message is simple: More cuts of support from the various levels of government to agencies like the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition [FKOC] would be unconscionable in any respected system of humane ethics.
Don't go there!
My reasoning is more complex: At a time when appointed and employed elements of county government are trying desperately to protect their own domains by suggesting drastic cuts of support in other areas, the role of our elected representatives must be to look to the larger picture. We, the people, in entrusting our governance to them, do so with the expectation that they will be guided by values, not by dollars.
No matter what religious or spiritual tradition one may personally honor, an abiding commandment of all systems of values — religious or philosophical, theist or humanist or atheist — is that when we care for the least among us, we care for the whole.
Those with money, those with power, those with position, those with influence have voices that are heard loudly, persistently, and deeply in self-service.
But those at the other end of the continuum, those without money, those without power, those without position, those without influence, they are usually unheard, silently living in the shadows of our society.
The measure of one's humanity, and the measure of the governance of elected officials, is the compassionate use of the resources held in stewardship, especially to meet the needs of the silent ones.
But if someone would rather focus on economics than on compassion, I commend to them the thinking of Van Jones, who reminds us that in the emergent Green Politics of the future by which elections will be decided, candidates will be more remembered by what they truly save than what they obviously spend. In the long run, when a program like FKOC can move 85 percent of its clients from unemployment and homelessness to employment and residence, spending money in support now will save us much, much more in the long run. It is in the long-term economic interest of our community to provide all the support possible to the Outreach Coalition if only to save more money from programs that cannot be cut — jails, indigent health care, police presence, etc.
I hope we as a community will decide on the basis of compassion; if not, I trust we will decide on the basis of real economics, not just short-term, panic-attack economics.
Don't cut funding for FKOC or other essential programs provided by nonprofits in our community.
We, the people, elected our officials to be not only fiscally responsible, but moreover to be ethically responsible for our common life in community.
I trust they will do the right thing.
Randolph W.B. Becker, minister
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Key West
Supporting coalition saves lives and money
A few weeks ago, as I walked our dog ..., we developed a talking relationship with a man who spent all of his afternoons and early evenings sitting on a street corner in our neighborhood. He was homeless and an active alcoholic. In our conversations, I learned that he, like many homeless people, was a bright, personable and interesting man, and also one who, due to some very difficult personal circumstances, had started drinking many years ago, lost what he had and ended up on the street, sleeping at night behind a trash bin.
As a relatively new Key West resident and a practicing psychologist, I had also recently become well-acquainted with Father Steve Braddock and the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition (FKOC). This organization does stellar work to help homeless people and people with drug and alcohol addictions get their lives back on track. In May, I proudly became a member of the FKOC Board of Directors.
Armed with my knowledge of the opportunities available through FKOC, I began talking with my street-corner friend about how FKOC could help him.
Initially he resisted, but after several arrests for open-container violations and a particularly bloody fight when someone stole his backpack, he asked pleadingly for help. With help from excellent FKOC and DePoo staff people, in two hours he was in treatment. Now, several weeks later, he remains sober. He attends AA meetings and has reconnected with family after many years of no contact. I have great confidence that, because of the very structured and supportive program he is in at FKOC, he will relatively soon have a job and be living independently and not on the street.
I believe that without the assistance of FKOC, my friend could not have made the changes he needed to become a responsible and contributing member of our community. The outstanding services provided by FKOC not only literally help people save their lives and once again begin to participate productively in family and community life; they also aid our community by greatly reducing the number of homeless and addicted folks who, without help, become costly and troublesome in many ways for community members and public agencies. If this valuable program does not continue, our local police in particular are going to face a much heavier burden in the future. Our ongoing personal and governmental support of FKOC is imperative. This support is an investment that saves lives and makes our Key West community a better place to live for everyone.
Eric Nichols, Key West
Former St. Paul's Rector Honored
Rev. David Wilt, former Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church and Vice-Chairman of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless (FKOC) was instituted as pastor of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in West Palm Beach on Sunday April 27th.
Fr. Wilt and his wife Sandy were honored for their service at St. Paul's and to the Key West Community. The couple were presented with the Key to the City by FKOC President
Rev. Stephen E. Braddock on behalf of Mayor Morgan McPherson.
(Photo by John Jurkowski)
Pictured in the Sanctuary of Holy Trinity are (L-R) Sandy Wilt, Rev. Wilt & Rev. Braddock
(Photo by Christie Phillips)
(L-R) Florida Keys Outreach Coalition President Rev. Steve Braddock; Retiring Key West City Manager John Jones; Key West City Manager Jim Scholl.
"The National Coalition for the Homeless
Key West Assistant City Manager
for his caring, compassionate and effective efforts to
address homelessness and its underlying causes in the Florida Keys, and for the example he models for other public officials across the nation."
Awarded this 30th day of April 2008
This is the letter read to announce the award:
Since 1989, the National Coalition for the Homeless has worked closely
with homeless advocates, service providers and homeless people in Key
Homelessness has always been a major issue in your city. For years
there was reluctance to address the issue.
Over the past five years we have seen your community come together to
work on ending homelessness.
When people and/or the media ask me what cities/communities are doing
things right, developing model programs, making progress, I always cite
Key West along with only 4 other cities.
A lot of credit for this new attitude/approach goes to John Jones.
While he leaves public service with the title of assistant city manager,
we also bestow on him the title of Homeless Advocate.
He is the first ever public official to be so honored by the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Dr. Michael Stoops
National Coalition for the Homeless
Episcopal Charities Honored
FKOC recently honored Episcopal Charities of Southeast Florida which contributed over $75,000 to support the Loaves and Fish Food Pantry.
Accepting the award in Palm Beach Garden's is the Foundation's Program Grants and Resource Director, Bonnie B Weaver, flanked by former FKOC Vice-Chair
Rev. David Wilt (R) and FKOC President,
Rev. Steve Braddock (L).
Monroe County Human Service Organizations
(Photo by Paul Clayton)
"Budget cuts at the federal, state and local levels, combined with a downturn in the economy, spell serious trouble for nonprofits serving the most needy and vulnerable people in the Florida Keys. Many are seeing their revenue being reduced or cut completely," said Rev. Steve Braddock.
Nonprofit CEO's met together the afternoon of April 18th to examine ways their respective organizations can further work together to handle funding cuts, both short and long term.
The leaders of Helpline, Domestic Abuse Shelter, Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless, Florida Keys Area Health Education Center, Monroe Association for Remarkable Citizens, Wesley House Family Services, Samuel's House, Healthy Start, Rural Health Network of Monroe County, Hospice/VNA, Heron-Peacock Supportive Living, Womankind, and United Way of Monroe County, have begun a brainstorming process to examine how they might realign priorities, reduce services, and further collaborative efforts to meet the social service related needs of Monroe County.
All Monroe County nonprofit CEO's providing social services are encouraged to participate and contribute to the group's efforts to sustain critically needed human services during this period of economic crises.
Food Bill passes, helps homeless
By Alyson Crean firstname.lastname@example.org
Restaurants could assist food pantries
With a simple sentence the Florida Legislature could fill a few more empty bellies. A bill that adds restaurant meals to a list of foods that can be provided to the needy has passed both houses of the Legislature.
Named for the middle school student who started it all, the Jack Davis Florida Restaurant Lending a Helping Hand Act will allow food prepared by restaurants to be distributed to homeless shelters. Unless it is vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist, the bill would become law on July 1.
Already, perishable foods from grocery stores, bakeries and other retailers have been approved for donation. This bill adds to the definition foods that have been prepared at a public food service establishment licensed under state law.
I am very hopeful it will benefit the residential facilities, particularly those for women and children, said Rev. Stephen Braddock, executive director of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the homeless.
Social service budgets are getting hammered as the Legislature looks to shave billions off of the current state budget. A slowed economy has brought in less revenue than had been anticipated when the 2007-08 budget was crafted, and the Legislature is trying to play catch up.
The budget cuts will reduce our ability to purchase bulk food, said Braddock. I'm hoping, with this bill, that restaurants, caterers and private clubs might step up and help.
He said he'd like to see these businesses sponsor dinners to aid shelters.
Many restaurants and public food service establishments have expressed a desire to donate food to homeless service providers and shelters, said Lesa Weikel in a statement released Thursday. However, most have been reluctant to do so because of the liability that may result.
Weikel is a Tampa-based spokeswoman for the Florida Coalition for the Homeless.
Davis is likely one proud sixth grader. The 11-year-old student from the Ransom Everglades prep school came up with the idea as part of a social studies project after noticing the huge amounts of leftover food that restaurants and hotels throw away on a daily basis.
With the help of his attorney father, Davis was able to bring the idea to the attention of legislators, and the bill was born.
According to a story in the Miami Herald, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association supports the bill.
HARD TIMES SHOW
By Alyson Crean email@example.com
Food pantries report more families in need
A working mom with four kids entered new territory this week when she found herself at the doorstep of Glad Tidings' food pantry in Key West asking for help.
She said she is working, but her hours have been cut so she couldn't afford to buy food, said Kay DeLoach, who runs the bank with her husband Pastor Ernie DeLoach.
People are having to choose between paying the rent and buying food, said Marj Roberts, director of KAIR, or Keys Area Interdenominational Resources, in Marathon.
This week the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it would award Monroe County nearly $15,000 through an emergency food and shelter grant program.
That's up from the $14,000 granted last year, but Rev. Stephen Braddock says the grant was more than $60,000 several years ago.
Braddock, executive director of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, said demand is increasing on the Loaves and Fishes food bank in Key West as well. He pointed out a recent Wall Street Journal article showing demand on food banks has risen as much as 20 percent the past year.
Demand at Loaves and Fishes has gone up 20 percent in the last two months, Braddock said. â€œWe're serving about 90 families a month.
Glad Tidings serves at least 10 families a month, DeLoach said. That's on top of the 150 to 200 daily meals served by the church. Glad Tidings provides breakfast for the homeless every Tuesday and Thursday.
The St. Mary's Soup Kitchen in Key West has also seen an increase in demand, says director Angela McClain.
We've probably increased by 10 percent to 12 percent, she said. The soup kitchen is averaging between 80 and 100 meals a day.
Demand at the food bank run by St. Peter Catholic Church on Big Pine Key is on the rise as well, says the bank's director, Magda Trott.
We are only open three days a week, she said, and we have a steady stream of people. We see in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 people a day, and most of them are families.
Last year's FEMA grant was split among St Mary's Soup Kitchen, KAIR, HigherLove Mission Outreach in Marathon and Samuel's House, a women's emergency shelter in Key West.
Combined, those agencies served nearly 72,000 meals in 2007, said Elmira Leto, director of Samuel's House.
Many of the agencies that distribute food, either via kitchens or pantries, say they see the supply of food shrinking even as the demand grows.
Private donations and church support seems to be holding out better than government funding.
Roberts said the federal government went from distributing 261 million pounds of food nationally in one year to 16 million pounds.
KAIR distributes 3,000 pounds of groceries a month, Roberts said.
Even if your churches are being great, which they are, when you go through that much food a month, you're having to provide a lot of supplies.
Budget cuts will affect poor and out-of-luck
Sunday, March 9, 2008
BY JOHN L. GUERRA, Key West Citizen Staff
An out-of-work carpenter in Key West can't come up with his share of the rent for an apartment he shares with other workers. Unless someone offers him a free place to stay, he'll either sleep outside or seek the services of a homeless shelter until he gets back on his feet.
This happens all the time, said the Rev. Stephen Braddock, president of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition.
“We have so many low-end workers living in roommate situations, sometimes as many as six roommates in one apartment,” he said. “All it takes is one of them to not come up with the rent and they are all out in the street. I hear these stories all the time, it happens every day here.”
The man's plight underscores how nonprofit organizations that provide shelter, food, clothing, psychiatric care, and other services continue to serve as true safety nets as the national, state and Florida Keys economies tank.
Dozens of agencies like Braddock's that serve newborns to the elderly are the last stop for people caught in the vortex of life. Yet the Monroe County Commission last month cut the human service agency budget that funds many of these organizations by 20 percent for 2008. Groups like Wesley House Family Services, the Outreach Coalition and others that provide juvenile psychiatric services, alcohol and drug abuse services and protect women and children from domestic violence are trying to find ways to keep their doors open.
The county's Human Services Advisory Board, which decides how much each nonprofit agency gets from the county, estimates there's $2.21 million available for nonprofits in 2008, compared to $2.33 last year.
Though it may not sound like much, the difference is substantial, says Doug Blomberg, chief executive officer of Wesley House Family Services, Inc. The local cuts will reduce the size of federal and state matching grants that are determined by how much groups get from the county. Less money from the county means less money from federal and state government.
“It could affect our other grant funds that we receive,” he said. “We will have to adjust and determine how we'll meet those fund-matching requirements.”
It's the same with the Outreach Coalition. “If I receive a $200,000 grant from Florida , I need to provide a 100 percent match from local funds,” Braddock said. “Our state and federal grants will be reduced proportionally, which results in a proportionate decrease in the services we provide.”
That's not good news for Outreach clients. The group runs shelters for homeless men, women and children as well as provides care for those suffering from mental illness and struggling with substance abuse and alcoholism. Women and children seeking safety from domestic violence also find shelter with the coalition.
The cuts are “reducing the quality of life for Keys residents,” Braddock said, “and putting the budget deficit on the backs of nonprofits.”
Though the cuts won't affect the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter because it's funded by the city of Key West , Braddock said his group will have to reduce some services to make ends meet. The advisory board won't make its final decision on who gets what for a couple of weeks. At that point Braddock and his colleagues will determine where to make adjustments.
Is it possible that the only in-patient drug and alcohol detox center in the Keys will be closed for lack of money? That's a possibility, said Jamie Pipher, regional vice president for Guidance Clinic of the Middle Keys and the Care Centers for Mental Health in Key West and Tavernier. Among its many programs, the organization runs Keys to Recovery, a 12-bed, six-month court-ordered drug and alcohol rehab program. It also provides substance abuse treatment for male felons, provides mental health experts to the Monroe County Detention Centers, provides psychological and psychiatric services for Keys school children and serves the Department of Juvenile Justice by helping at-risk youth with psychological and other help.
“Between the two agencies, we provide a huge amount of services,” Pipher said. The Guidance Clinic last year helped 1,400 clients and provided 32,000 services, its Web site says.
The case load for the organizations in 2008 will be decreased unless the Care Centers and the Guidance Clinic can streamline services, Pipher said. “We will be impacted by almost $200,000, that's what we'll lose between the two agencies.”
One way to cut costs: by getting rid of duplicate efforts, though there aren't many places where that's the case. “We've been consolidating into one system of care,” she said, “trying to be as efficient as we can to save as much money as we can.”
In spite of these efforts, services still will be reduced, she said. “We will have to reduce services, including closing down the detox facility at the Guidance Clinic, the only detox facility in the county,” Pipher said.
Some organizations have fallen by the wayside, and not just because of budget cuts. The YMCA of Key West is closed, the apparent victim of money mismanagement. The organization supplied much-needed child and day-care services for working parents.
A second group, Big Brothers Big Sisters, suddenly announced in a March 4 letter to volunteers and client families that it had ceased operations on March 1. The announcement surprised volunteers and the community, but rumors of the group's demise have been circulating for at least a month.
The relationships between the adult “bigs” and their charges will continue, however, under a new organization that doesn't use the Big Brother brand, said a group representative. The group's former board members are finalizing an agreement with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Keys Area Bayview Park and the Wesley House to take up the mentoring program, but under a new name.
Kelly Croce Sorg, who served on the Big Brothers board, said the organization decided to close “while in the black,” and said the group has no outstanding debts. The Big Brothers chapter, however, closed because franchise costs associated with the national organization “were proving to be too great and local donations were shrinking,” she said.
As for closing with little notice to the community, Sorg said, “It was the board's intention to announce the new mentoring organization at the same time we announced the closing of [the chapter] however, timing issues prevented us from doing so,” she said.
Wesley House also will lose money because reduced county funding will translate into smaller matching state and federal grants. Wesley House, which serves 300 children in and out of the child foster care systems, will lose $30,000 in funding in 2008.
“That could translate into $480,000 in matching grant funding,” Blomberg said. The group will have to seek more grants elsewhere. “I will find out where to get those dollars so I don't lose those matches.”
So-called “nonessential” services that don't involve shelter, food or medicine also will be challenged by the cuts.
Mary Casanova, director of Literacy Volunteers of America, for years has seen funding come and go. But this year and especially 2009, will be tough.
“Though a couple of nonprofits aren't coming back this year, it's not going to impact us as much as the others,” she said. “We were the only agency last year that got a 50 percent cut and we're still here due to the fact that we no longer have a full-time director.”
The organization helps immigrants learn English and new social norms that help them launch their new lives in American culture. The group also runs citizenship classes for newcomers. The group has scaled back from 27 employees to two.
“It's tough all around, so we're just happy we're still able to get the volunteers,” she said. “We looked at the situation and asked ourselves, ‘How can we make the place still run without money?' ” One answer, of course, was to cut paid staff, including Casanova's income.
“I work 10 hours, we have a caseworker here working another five hours, so we're not serving as many students and no longer open regular hours,” she said, though the office is open seven days by appointment. Casanova relies on volunteers to keep the office running.
The cuts from the county could have been worse than the 20 percent cut, Braddock said. “The commissioners were considering cutting us back to 2004 funding levels, and that would have been catastrophic for everyone.”
Finding after-school care or a place where children can learn and socialize when school is not in session is increasingly difficult for parents, said Dan Dombroski, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Keys Area Bayview Park .
The Boys & Girls Clubs provides activities and events for children while school is out and parents are at work. The organization serves about 80 children a day, 90 percent of whom are below the county poverty level, Dombroski said.
“It's what allows mom and dad to go to work. People need resources like us,” he said. “If families move out of the Keys because there's no child care, those people don't come back.”
Insurance premiums for the club's programs are second only to salaries in many nonprofits, Dombroski said. “We pay as much as $14,000 a year in liability insurance, another $8,000 in director's liability insurance and another $3,000 for the vehicles used by the organization. That's more than $30,000 a year in insurance.”
One positive aspect of the cuts is that it will inspire nonprofits to share resources, reduce duplicate efforts and even share office space, Dombroski said. Some groups, such as Wesley House and Boys & Girls Clubs, already are doing that. The Community Foundation of the Florida Keys recently launched the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, a nonprofit that provides a wide range of services to help nonprofits.
“It's something that can be done,” Dombroski said. “If groups work together and find ways to help each other, we can serve the public the best we can. It's something that can be done.”
FKOC honors Phil Harris as "Unsung Hero".
(Pictured L-R) FKOC President, Rev. Steve Braddock;
FKOC Deputy Director, Gina Pecora;
Honoree, Phil Harris;
FKOC Chairman, Sam Kaufman;
CFFK President, Diana Sutton.
The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition recently honored Phil Harris during an annual luncheon sponsored by the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys.
Phil is an outstanding advocate for homeless individuals in recovery. In addition to his work at the Care Center for Mental Health Phil volunteers his time and energy
to mentor homeless clients in recovery at the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition.
He uses his life skills and experiences to help others transition from homelessness to lives of independence and self-sufficiency.
He facilitates "A Way of Life" a group program using recovery skills to continue to build a healthy, balanced, and self-sufficient life. Phil has shared the gift of hope, along with the "tools" for living a balanced and meaningful life in recovery.
Homeless Advocate Honored
(photo by Rob O'Neil - Key West Citizen)
Rev. Stephen Braddock, President of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, congratulates Sarah Fowler on receiving the Florence Spottswood Lifetime Acheivement Award from the American Red Cross. Fowler has worked tirelessly on behalf of the community's poor and needy.
No simple answers to homeless problems
Key West Citizen Editorial
In this space last week, we took occasion to comment on the public's increasing anger about vagrants encamping on Higgs Beach and in Bayview Park, often denying locals and visitors the use of these taxpayer-supported facilities. And we cited current law that limits police response to citizens' complaints.
We took some heat for using the term "vagrant."
We also indulged in some self criticism for declaring that the problem is not fundamentally a law enforcement issue without offering any commentary with respect to alternatives.
Today, we take up the subject again, employing the term "homeless."
The applicable law that describes permissible police activity is a result of litigation in federal court in Miami. In 1992, Judge C. Clyde Atkins entered his judgment that the city of Miami had violated various constitutional rights of homeless plaintiffs. While the case was still on appeal, the parties entered into a settlement agreement that establishes what the law does and does not permit.
In summary, here are the ground rules.
* If a homeless person meets the criteria for involuntary examination under Florida law (the Baker Act) because he or she is a danger to himself, herself or others, a police officer may take the person to a receiving facility for examination.
* If a police officer observes a person who, because of homelessness, commits any one of a long list of misdemeanors (public nudity, violating curfew, camping, obstructing passage on sidewalks, etc.), the officer must offer the homeless person the option of going to an available shelter. If the person accepts, no arrest can be made. If the person refuses, he or she may be arrested.
* A police officer may arrest a homeless person who is engaging in non-life-sustaining conduct that is a misdemeanor or a felony, without regard to availability of a shelter.
In short, as we explained last week, homeless persons have as much right to the use of public parks as anyone else so long as they do not commit a crime or unless their behavior represents a danger to themselves or others.
As a result, police are limited in what they can do and under what circumstances they can do anything at all. Furthermore, it is obvious that making arrests will not solve the social ills that are the root causes of homelessness.
On the other hand, many citizens fear for their safety and, also, find reason to object to the presence of loathsome, dirty and occasionally dangerous homeless people in our parks and on our streets — and they want the cops to do something about it.
The reality of this dilemma is that further burdening the judicial system by arresting people for minor violations is not a solution to alcoholism, drug abuse or mental illnesses that account for so much of the homeless population. Yes, homelessness may be a choice for some. And yes, many homeless people can and do seek employment. Relatively speaking, only a handful of them are threats to public safety.
Nevertheless, to the extent that reliable data can be accumulated, homeless populations have increased exponentially beginning in the 1960s here in the U.S. and many other nations, and for pretty much the same reasons. Mental illnesses and addiction. Intervention techniques and psychiatric treatments are by now well understood, but many experts concede that remedial facilities and professional caregivers in many communities may be overwhelmed.
This is not the case in Key West, where the homeless population has declined by 50 percent over the past five years. What would help most in Key West is a "day center" where the homeless could obtain skills training along with facilities for showers and laundry, but no such center is available.
Sufficient funding to care for the homeless is no small consideration on our small island. Federal funds have not increased. State, county and municipal funds are being cut.
Our social workers are overtaxed in other ways too. Outreach to the homeless is largely a one-on-one task.
Many homeless are uncooperative, having endured many failed interventions over a period of years. Mental illnesses are varied, may require long-term interventions and may never succeed. Addiction to drugs and alcohol may further complicate the treatments required by some. Many homeless suffer medical maladies that result from ordinary causes, but are complicated and made worse by longtime neglect. A significant number are military veterans.
The homeless can be referred to as a population. But taken as individuals, homelessness may be the only thing they have in common. Some are men, some are women. Some are young, some are old. Too many are children. These variables add even more complexity to the tasks social workers and medical professionals confront every day.
Protecting the civil rights of homeless people is the easy part. Figuring out how to deploy — and pay for — humane measures to manage the needs of the homeless among us is a huge, long-term problem. There are, as yet, no comprehensive, easy answers.
— The Citizen
Board Elects Officers for 2007/2008
The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition elected officers for the upcoming year during its May 16th general meeting.
Left-Right) Rev. Stephen E. Braddock, Ph.D., President and Executive Director; Rev. David Wilt, Vice-Chairman; Samuel J. Kaufman, Esq., Chairman; George Maurer, Esq., Secretary; and Douglas Bradshaw, Treasurer.
see pictures from
Anniversary Celebration and Annual Meeting
Mayor Morgan McPherson presents proclamation with Commissoner Clayton Lopez proclaiming April 25th, 2007 as
FLORIDA KEYS OUTREACH COALITION DAY
in Key West
Rev. Braddock and Dr. Coles
Address Key West Chamber of Commerce Members
Greg Sullivan (R) Chairman of the Key West Chamber of Commerce, welcomed
Rev. Stephen Braddock (L), FKOC President
and Chairman of the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League (SHAL) and Dr. Wendy Coles (C), SHAL Executive Director,
to the Chamber's monthly general membership luncheon on March 23rd at the Grand Key Resort.
Chamber members learned about the history, accomplishments and vision of Monroe County's Homeless Continuum-of-Care Plan.
FKOC and SHAL Meet with National Policy Makers
(Photo by Legislative Correspondent, Edward F. Simon)
(Washington, D.C.) U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lethinen welcomes Dr. Wendy Coles,
Executive Director of the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League (SHAL), and the Rev. Stephen
E. Braddock, President of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition and SHAL Chairman, to Capitol Hill last
week. Concerned by a flawed federal funding formula that continues to leave Monroe County homeless service
providers severely underfunded, Ros-Lethinen enthusiastically cosponsored a congressional briefing to educate
members of congress and their staff on how federal policy affects the lives of families, individuals and young people
who experience homelessness.
Braddock and Coles also participated in a 2-day national summit of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
The USICH pledged that new initiatives to address the needs of homeless families and children would be a priority for 2007 under the new chairmanship of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt. Leavitt was elected to succeed HUD Secretary Alfonso Jackson as chairman of the Council composed of 20 Cabinet Secretaries reporting directly to the White House.
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FKOC President Elected to Head Monroe County's
Homeless Continuum-of-Care Board for 2007
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Homeless numbers look to be on the rise
KeyNoter Bureau Chief, Alyson Matley-Crean Reports:
Homeless numbers look to be on the rise
By Alyson Crean firstname.lastname@example.org
The specifics will be gleaned in coming months
A one-day head count of the homeless in Monroe County on Tuesday showed a slight increase over last year, but officials say the increase may be the result of a better census.
“This was by far the most thorough count we've ever had in the Middle and Upper Keys,” said Rev. Steven Braddock, executive director of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, an advocacy group for the homeless.
The so-called point-in-time census - which volunteers literally hit the streets, mangroves and anywhere else the homeless gather - tallied 1,222 homeless in the Keys, up from 1,018 counted a year ago.
The count revealed 520 unsheltered homeless in the Lower Keys and Key West, 119 in the Middle Keys and 86 in the Upper Keys. In addition, 497 were counted as “sheltered,” people who are housed in any of a number of programs aimed at helping people back on their feet.
In past years, the census was broken out in a number of categories, including the number of children who are counted as homeless. According to Braddock, those numbers will likely be teased out within the next several weeks.
Because volunteers interviewed the homeless people throughout the county by filling out a rather lengthy survey, the breakdown from those surveys will take awhile, he said.
In the Lower Keys, Braddock says one clear difference in this year's count was a lack of illicit camps.
“There are far fewer people living in the mangroves and on the out islands,” he said. “In the 2002 count, there were a number of people living on Christmas Tree Island [just off Key West]. This year, not a soul was out there.”
At the same time, Braddock says the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter on Stock Island is brimming.
“My early sense is that we can attribute the slight rise in part to the loss of housing after Hurricane Wilma,” he said. “Certainly, the colder temperatures to the north play a part right now, as well.”
During the past week, the population of KOTS hit an all-time record of 150 sleepers - in a facility built to accommodate 120.
“We've also seen a dramatic increase in the number of women,” Braddock added. “There are more than double the number we've had in past years.”
In looking over the survey conducted of KOTS residents, Braddock said he was surprised at the number who said they were homeless because of the October 2005 hurricane.
Census results are crucial for local agencies to qualify for federal funding that keeps them afloat.
The count, sponsored by a coalition of agencies calling themselves the Southernmost Homeless assistance League, is required ever two years for federal funding.
“We'll also use this data to develop additional housing to serve this special needs population,” SHAL Executive Director Wendy Coles said.
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FKOC Honors Fisher as "Unsung Hero"
The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition recently recognized Louis Fisher as the organization's volunteer "Unsung Hero" during a luncheon ceremony hosted by the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys.
(Pictured L-R: Foundation President, Diana Sutton; FKOC Chair, Samuel Kaufman; Honoree, Louis Fisher; FKOC President, Rev. Stephen Braddock.)
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2007 Homeless Legislative Day
WHEN: Wednesday, March 28, 2007
WHERE: Florida State Capitol - Tallahassee
JOIN the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition www.FKOC.org and other service providers, advocates and concerned citizens from around the state to educate Senators and Representatives about the needs of homeless men, women and children and how they can help by:
-Directing Policy and Funding for Extremely Low Income Housing
-Removing the Cap and Fully Fund the Sadowski Housing Trust Fund
-Providing Funding Needs for State-Funded Homeless Assistance Programs
-Revising the Definition of Homelessness
-Protecting Homeless People from Violence
FOR MORE INFORMATION and to SIGN UP for Homeless Legislative Day, Contact:
Rev. Steve Braddock at 305-293-8189.
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Feeding the Multitudes
(KW) Rev. Stephen E. Braddock (L) President of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, accepts a check from Rev. David Wilt (R), Rector of St. Paul's Church.
The Homeless Coalition and St. Paul's cosponsor the Loaves and Fish Food Pantry. St. Paul's and the Episcopal Foundation of South Florida have contributed over $50,000 to the anti-hunger initiative since its 1999 inception.
(295-7580 for pantry information).