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Homeless shelter move to senior housing facility being dissected – Konk Life

BY PRU SOWERS

KONK LIFE STAFF WRITER

Key West Mayor Craig Cates admits he probably “jumped the gun” a bit when he publicly spoke recently about converting the Bayshore Manor senior assisted living facility into the local homeless shelter.

The talks between city officials and Monroe County, which owns and operates Bayshore Manor, up to that point had been preliminary and unofficial. But after mentioning the idea in a radio interview, a lot of people got very interested, and anxious, very quickly, including Bayshore staff members and relatives of the facility’s current residents. And when county commissioners discussed the idea at their Oct. 18 meeting, their initial response was not very enthusiastic despite agreeing to bring the matter up again at their November meeting.

“It doesn’t surprise me. They all have constituents to answer to,” Cates said about the tepid reaction from county commissioners. “But they all understand we need a [homeless] shelter. Key West has been carrying the water for the shelter for years and years.”

Currently, Monroe County supplies the land for the existing Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter (KOTS) while Key West pays about $450,000 each year to operate the shelter. But Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsey wants the shelter property, which is next to the sheriff’s headquarters, to be used for affordable workforce housing for his deputies and staff. And county commissioners voted in September to give Key West one year to move the shelter to a new location.

The city commission had agreed in 2015 to move KOTS across the street to one of three city-owned parcels on College Road on Stock Island. But with the already-low availability of affordable housing units becoming almost non-existent after Hurricane Irma ravaged the Florida Keys in September, Cates wants all three of the parcels to be used for a workforce housing development. And that would leave the issue of where to relocate KOTS up in the air.

While there has been talk in the past about the city taking over Bayshore Manor, there has been no place to move the 16 current residents, as well as 10 addition beds that are used for respite care. But with the imminent completion of Poinciana Gardens, a new 108-unit senior living facility the city is building on Duck Avenue, there will soon be a modern facility that can house the Bayshore Manor residents, Cates said. Under his plan, the county would lease the one-acre Bayshore Manor complex to the city, the city would pay the cost of converting the building into a homeless shelter, and both the city and county would share the cost of maintaining KOTS going forward. As for the cost of operating Poinciana Gardens, the city has hired a private contractor to set and collect rent from occupants that is intended to cover the cost of operating the facility.

“That’s my wish,” Cates said. “That’s my goal, to bring everybody together to accomplish that.”

Monroe County spends approximately $800,000 a year to operate Bayshore Manor. The new Poinciana Gardens, aimed at low and moderate-income seniors, is expected to open in six to nine months. Located at Duck Avenue and 17th Street, the three-story structure replaced a four-unit apartment building on the property and will provide 108 apartments for an estimated 140 people. The first two floors will have 60 apartments for more independent seniors, with the third floor offering 48 units with assisted living services, which include more care and supervision for residents. In addition, the new facility will have a “respite care” program, where 25 non-resident seniors can receive daycare during the day.

http://konknet.com/homeless-shelter-move-to-senior-housing-facility-being-dissected/

Leaders to propose new KOTS location – Citizen

By Timothy O’Hara Key West Citizen

October 18, 2017
Monroe County and city of Key West mayors have informally discussed the possibility of converting Bayshore Manor senior assisted living facility into a homeless shelter, but a formal agreement has yet to be reached.

The Monroe County Commission will most likely discuss the proposal when it meets on Wednesday at the Marathon Government Center, 2798 Overseas Highway. The meeting starts at 9 a.m. today.

Key West Mayor Craig Cates plans to bring the proposal before the Key West City Commission when it meets in November, Key West Mayor Craig Cates said.

Both commissions would have to vote on the proposal to use the county-owned Bayshore Manor property for KOTS (Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter).

Last week, Cates, County Mayor George Neugent and County Administrator Roman Gastesi informally discussed a proposal that would call for the the 1-acre Bayhore Manor facility and property to be converted into KOTS.

The 16 Bayshore Manor residents and the 10 beds for respite care would be moved to a 108-room senior living facility at Poinciana Plaza in Key West currently under construction, according to Cates. The new facility should be completed within the next six to eight months, Cates said.

Cates said the new facility is newer and nicer and the county would not have to pay to maintain the facility. The new facility will be run by a private, third-party contractor.

“This is a brand new, state-of-the-art facility that people would want to move into,” Cates said.

Cates announced the proposal on U.S. 1 radio on Monday morning and said there was an agreement. That sparked a flood of calls from the family of Bayshore Manor residents and facility staff to county personnel who oversee the facility. Staff and family were concerned that there was an agreement in place and they were not notified.

Residents’ family members were concerned that the residents would have to move and staff was concerned that they would no longer have jobs.

“Bayshore Manor provides 16 affordable housing units for our most frail, elderly citizens in Monroe County,” said Sheryl Graham, senior social services director for the county. “To take these 16 affordable housing units dedicated to our vulnerable elderly offline would be senseless. … Bayshore Manor holds a rich and fascinating history that our residents, families, and staff love.”

County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy said she was opposed to the idea.

“That is their home,” Murphy said. “These seniors are happy there. To turn that facility into a homeless shelter would be a travesty.”

Commissioner Heather Carruthers said she is not opposed to discussing the idea, but wants to know what the costs would be to relocate the seniors to a new facility and the level care they would receive at the facility at Poinciana Plaza.

“They better be going to a better place not a lesser place and a place they can afford,” Carruthers said.

The county spends roughly $800,000 a year staffing and maintaining Bayshore Manor, according to Graham.

Neugent said the discussion with Cates was informal and any decision would have to be made by the full County Commission. Neugent, Cates and Gastesi were trying to find a solution about where to place KOTS.

KOTS is currently located next to the Sheriff’s Office headquarters and jail on Stock Island. The County Commission voted unanimously last month to give the city a year to move KOTS, because Sheriff Rick Ramsay wants to place employee housing on that property, despite Cates wanting to maintain it as KOTS.

The city agreed to move KOTS several years ago, as it was established as a temporary facility more than 10 years ago with no contract. The city has also been sued over the location and agreed to move the shelter, drawing up plans that were presented but rejected by the City Commission in 2015.

tohara@keysnews.com

https://keysnews.com/article/story/leaders-to-propose-new-kots-location/

County: Homeless shelter must move in 2018 – Keynoter

SEPTEMBER 29, 2017 4:16 PM

Homeless pavilion a worthy undertaking – Citizen

(This editorial that appeared in the Key West Citizen on August 17, 2017 originally appeared in the Ocala Star-Banner)

The city of Ocala’s proposal to build a pavilion adjacent to Interfaith Emergency Services to serve as a place for homeless people to gather and receive food and other services is a worthy undertaking. It will not, however, solve the downtown’s “homeless problem” or the broader problem of an uncoordinated community response to what is an ageless human condition.

The city is proposing to build a 50-by-20-foot shelter next to Interfaith’s food warehouse, just a few blocks west of downtown. The facility would have restrooms, wash sinks and picnic tables, as well as security, and provide homeless residents with a place for a respite. The cost of the project is estimated at about a quarter-million dollars.

The city’s stated goal is to “create a focal point where wrap-around services can be developed” and provide “organized access to food, clothing, voluntary support and mental health counseling.” Those are admirable objectives, although as the city’s own assessment of homeless services in our community shows, there are 52 different agencies and organizations in Ocala alone, from churches to charities to civic groups, providing services of some kind to the homeless. No doubt each of these providers does noble work, and the notion that they will move their efforts to the new pavilion is, well, not practical.

Of course, opponents of the plan, and they so far are few, say the real reason the city is willing to invest in the project is to get homeless people out of the downtown, away from the shops and restaurant and bars that draw patrons to the center city. And the critics would be right. Yet, we ask them, what is wrong with providing a gathering place with facilities and food, just a few blocks from where most such activities are occurring now? What is wrong with removing the homeless from our central business district as much as possible? The answer is, there is nothing wrong with it.

In fact, it would seem to us that the new pavilion does provide better opportunities for the homeless to not only get food but health care, mental health counseling, medication, clothing and other services as well.

The downtown has always had issues with the homeless, largely caused by a handful of vagrants. But with organizations now holding regular mass feedings at the county parking owned lot north of Silver Springs Boulevard and the Salvation Army being at near-capacity much of the time as the economy continues to recover, the impact is greater than ever. Creating a gathering place for the homeless away from businesses is not unreasonable.

The city’s long-term goal is to bring about a coordinated plan for dealing with the homeless in Ocala and Marion County. It has invested significantly in addressing homelessness, even creating a homeless liaison in former police major Dennis Yonce, to further the cause. Nonetheless, given the number of groups engaged in this charitable work makes such plan a challenge that will require years of cajoling and coordination, if it ever can be accomplished.

For now, though, the proposed pavilion is a sensible idea that benefits the homeless and the downtown business district as well. It is an idea that has been floated off and on for more than decade. It is time to make it a reality.

Chronicling homelessness: the summer heat takes a brutal toll – Guardian

With temperatures in some major metropolitan areas pushing upward of 100F, the fundamental physical circumstances of homelessness take on a new urgency

Homeless people take shelter from the sun in Phoenix. Photograph: Stephen Denton for the Guardian

As temperatures tick up across the country – around 100F in Los Angeles, almost 120F in Phoenix – and I find I sometimes have to sit directly in front of a fan in order to get any work done, it’s hard not to think guiltily of those with no such option. We reported recently about a homeless Arizona man who had no shoes and was found crawling across burning asphalt, and a woman who told us it was so hot on the streets, even at night, that she woke every hour to douse her hair with water.

Of all the hardships of homelessness, it is the fundamental physical circumstances – exposure to the elements, the struggle to keep clean, the discomfort of bedding down on concrete – that are often the most piercing. On Skid Row in Los Angeles, there are only nine toilets available to the 1,800 people sleeping on the streets at night. According to the authors of a recent report, this contravenes a UN standard for long term refugee camps, which specifies one toilet for 20 people at the most.

All of this means that the things you least expect can have a transformative effect. At 9.30pm on a chilly night a few months ago, a Guardian colleague and I met up with Rev Lyle Beckman, who leads a so-called night ministry – he patrols the streets of the Tenderloin district during the hours of darkness. As we were leaving his office, he suggested we fill our pockets with some socks he had in boxes. Outside we passed people sleeping in doorways and on sidewalks. When Beckman asked what they needed, a few named items we couldn’t give – a cigarette, a dollar. But when Beckman proffered a pair of socks, the surprisingly enthusiastic response made it clear how much more important they were.

As many advocates would probably say, a pair of socks is no substitute for the tens of billions of dollars that the federal government is underinvesting in affordable housing. But for a person who is on their feet all day or who can’t get dry after a rain storm, they are something.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/24/homelessness-summer-us-southwest-phoenix-los-angeles

FKOC announces the retirement of Rev. Stephen Braddock – KONK Life

The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, Inc. announces the retirement of Rev. Stephen Braddock as FKOC’s President & Chief Executive Officer after seventeen years of service.   Rev. Braddock’s long career with FKOC began in 2000 as a planned “short six months” to help the homelessness agency transition to new management.  However, Rev. Braddock remained as a leader not just for FKOC’s mission and growth, but also among homelessness advocates in Monroe County.  

Under Rev. Braddock’s leadership FKOC has grown from one facility in Key West to now offering more than 160 beds of shelter and permanent housing for men, women, families, the elderly, disabled, and victims of domestic violence who find themselves without a place to call home.  Rev. Braddock was instrumental in the establishment of the Loaves & Fish Food Pantry at FKOC through a partnership with Episcopal Charities of Southeast Florida, creating the first food pantry within Key West city limits.   Most recently FKOC opened an outreach office in the Upper Keys to fully serve all of Monroe County.  FKOC began offering homelessness prevention services in 2015 to better assist those facing temporary financial hardship that would potentially lead to homelessness.  

Rev Braddock was a founding and longtime member of Monroe County’s Homeless Services Continuum of Care and nationally respected as an advocate for the most vulnerable members of our society.   Rev Braddock is a past recipient of the Edward “Capt’n” Kidd Humanitarian Award in recognition of his dedication to serving the homeless and impoverished of Key West. Additionally, Rev. Braddock established, with the support of Monroe County Social Services, Monroe County’s first Homeless Memorial Day service, a national day of remembrance for those who die on the streets across the county.  

FKOC Board Chairman Samuel Kaufman stated, “Seventeen years ago, FKOC started with little over a dozen beds.  Fr. Braddock has built FKOC to what it is today allowing the agency to provide housing to over 160 homeless individuals every day in Key West.  I am very proud to have worked with Fr. Braddock in all of the successes FKOC has achieved since the year 2000.  He will be greatly missed by all of us in the FKOC family.”

“As I leave this privileged position-privileged because I have come to know and to understand and experience the incredible impact that FKOC has made on so many lives-I do so with a heart full of gratitude. The accomplishments of these nearly two decades have not been mine alone; rather, they have been the work and dedication of many dedicated staff, volunteers, and supporters. The future of FKOC is very bright. Many possibilities and opportunities for growth await under new leadership at both the board and administrative levels. And, I am confident the mission of FKOC will continue to expand in scope and presence for decades to come,” said Rev. Braddock.

The Board of FKOC has named Stephanie Kaple Interim Executive Director of FKOC.  Stephanie Kaple began as intern with FKOC in the summer of 2003 and has over the years served in various roles with the agency most recently as Chief Operating Officer. “Rev Braddock has been a great mentor to myself and all of the staff at FKOC.  We look forward to continuing the mission of FKOC and always growing to better serve the community,” Stephanie Kaple stated.  Kaple continued, “I believe we have an exceptional team at FKOC, doing challenging but important work for our community.  I know FKOC will continue to be a key part of addressing homelessness in Monroe County.”

FKOC will hold its annual Happy Hour Fundraiser at the Bottlecap on July 21st from 5 to 8pm (2221 Simonton Street) and invites everyone to stop by and support FKOC’s Loaves & Fish Food Pantry and their new community garden project.  FKOC Board Chairman and City of Key West Commissioner Sam Kaufman will also be celebrating his birthday that evening.

Key West homeless shelter ‘fee’ proposed – Keynoter

Don’t abandon Housing First – Citizen

(This editorial that appeared in the Key West Citizen on July 17, 2017 originally appeared in the Ocala Star-Banner)

Homelessness seems like one of those persistent problems that never goes away — but a housing strategy that has gained favor nationally in the past decade has proven effective in dramatically reducing homelessness.

Called Housing First, the strategy holds that the best solution for homelessness is moving people into permanent housing as rapidly as possible. The notion is that providing housing without preconditions, such as sobriety tests, provides the stability needed for those are homeless to access services such as mental health treatment and job training.

Now 23 House Republicans — including Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville — are calling for the federal government to turn away from the Housing First approach. In a recent letter to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, they suggested that the policy doesn’t give homeless people with substance abuse problems enough incentive to sober up.

The letter also argued that HUD’s emphasis on Housing First is causing programs for homeless families and children to lose funding. Certainly that is a reasonable concern, but moving away from Housing First risks reversing the progress that has come from it.

The federal government first embraced Housing First under President George W. Bush’s administration, not because of some ideological belief but because it worked. Cities across the country have found the approach has reduced chronic homelessness and the costs associated with it.

The CEO of Changing Homelessness in Jacksonville told Floridapolitics.com, which first reported on Yoho signing the letter, that veteran homelessness has dropped over 80 percent in that area since a Housing First policy was adopted. Florida Hospital in Orlando saw a nearly 60 percent reduction in emergency room visits by formerly homeless individuals now involved in a Housing First program, officials there announced recently. 

Homeless advocates say the biggest need in solving homelessness is, well, a lack of housing. They say hundreds of families are living in their cars or in tents or worse. Getting people into housing and relieving their worries about safety and shelter is a huge step toward resolving the other issues associated with homelessness — again, health, jobs and nutrition.

The federal government has made Housing First its foremost program for addressing chronic homelessness. In communities where the program has been instituted on a broad scale, they are seeing success. Clearly there is a need in our community to more aggressively adopt a Housing First model to further reduce the numbers of homeless.

Yoho and the other House Republicans should reconsider their objections to Housing First, and HUD should think twice before abandoning an approach that has reduced homelessness and the costs associated with it. There are too many homeless in our community and state to not work try to make Housing First work. It makes sense. Give a homeless person a home and it will free them up from a major daily worry — where am I going to sleep tonight.

Data shows majority of shelter residents are local – Citizen

July 9, 2017

Early returns from a recently implemented database at the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter indicate a large percentage of clients are from Key West or nearby, not from far reaching locales as many think.

Six months of information gleaned from the shelter’s Apricot Social Solutions Database show more than half of shelter clients are local and a large percentage of those are recently homeless with obvious causes such as job loss and addiction, according to Southernmost Homeless Assistance League (which manages KOTS) Executive Director John Miller.

“We’re discovering that a huge majority of our new clients … are from Key West or very close by,” Miller said. “The people who are from Key West seem to be a little more newly homeless and with more readily identifiable problems.”

The challenge of finding a steady job and affordable housing in Key West, along with its built-in distractions, make the island a tough place to survive, frequently resulting in first time homelessness, according to Miller.

“(KOTS clients are) already here, they’re just not homeless yet,” he said.

The Apricot Social Solutions Database gathers a wide range of data to supplement the general information requested on the shelter’s intake forms, including duration of homelessness, income sources, barriers to treatment and which services are requested, according to Southernmost Homeless Assistance League (which manages KOTS) Executive Director John Miller.

The data helps case managers and the shelter identify which services the clients need, as well as which short and long-term clients require extra attention. As time goes by and more data is collected, it will be used to shape the programs offered at the shelter, Miller said.

“We can start to use that to help design our service modules and what kinds of services we need to be offering,” he said. “Down the road, not too far off, we’ll be able to look at things over time and that’s very important.”

KOTS Outreach currently assists clients with obtaining identification, case management information referrals and employment assistance including purchasing work clothes or other necessities for the newly employed, Miller said.

Miller, who has a background in information technology, programmed the database and uses recommendations from shelter staff to add categories and questions.

“I can add anything we need. It’s really, really user friendly,” he said.

sunger@keysnews.com

https://keysnews.com/article/story/data-shows-majority-of-shelter-residents-are-local/

Stay united in the fight against homelessness – Citizen

(This editorial that appeared in the Key West Citizen on July 7, 2017 originally appeared in the Orlando Sentinel.)

Central Florida has made remarkable progress over the past few years in the battle against homelessness. But it’ll take sustained leadership, cooperation and investment across the region to maintain the momentum and avoid letting those hard-fought gains erode.

Just four years ago, Metro Orlando ranked No. 1 among the nation’s midsized cities in its number of chronically homeless people, defined as individuals who have been without permanent shelter for at least a year. Since then — with government, business and the faith communities engaging, coordinating their approach and kicking in resources — housing has been provided for more than 700 of the chronically homeless. This past week leaders in the battle celebrated their success over the past couple of years in housing 168 of the most vulnerable individuals, who suffer from serious physical or mental illnesses; the effort easily surpassed its goal of 100.

The number of homeless in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties identified in the annual “Point in Time Count” has fallen by more than half in the past four years, another metric by which progress in the battle is measured. The 2017 total actually moved in the wrong direction, rising 29 percent. But the count, conducted on a single day in January, can be easily skewed. In 2016, it rained heavily on the day of the survey, which almost certainly reduced the number of people on the street. This year, the weather was good, and better-connected outreach workers and volunteers had an easier time tallying the area’s homeless.

A more troubling sign came recently when the Osceola County Commission passed a local ordinance criminalizing homelessness along U.S. Highway 192, the county’s main tourism corridor. The measure threatens anyone who sets up a “temporary habitation,” such as a tent or cardboard shanty, with a fine of up to $500 and a jail sentence of up to 60 days. While supporters of the new ordinance argued it was just a tool to prod the homeless to find a program providing shelter and services or relocate, there is no emergency shelter for homeless men in Osceola County, and other housing options in the county are few and far between.

Indeed, the battle against homelessness is more challenging throughout Central Florida because of a shortage of affordable housing. Metro Orlando ranked third in the nation in 2016 for its lack of housing for extremely low-income residents, according to a National Low Income Housing Coalition study. There’s much more work to be done on expanding the supply of affordable housing in the region.

While we understand the frustration of business owners on Osceola’s tourism corridor who say tourists are turned off by homeless people, slapping them with fines they can’t pay or throwing them in jail for a couple of months is not a viable solution. In fact, incarceration is the most expensive and least effective way for a community to deal with its homeless. When they are released, they’ll have a criminal record that presents an additional obstacle for them to land a job and pay for permanent housing.

Incarceration is also the least compassionate solution. In the latest Point in Time Count, 22 percent of the homeless were children, 12 percent were families and 11 percent were veterans.

Supporters of Osceola’s ordinance said arrest would be a last resort. Sheriff Russ Gibson told the Sentinel that he would urge his deputies to use “the greatest amount of discretion possible” in enforcing the ordinance. Two weeks after it passed, no homeless person had been arrested under the new measure. 

Yet Osceola’s measure represents a crack in the consensus adopted by leaders across the region to fight homelessness with a strategy of providing housing first before addressing other needs. This strategy was buttressed by a 2014 study that found that chronically homeless individuals on average ran up costs for their communities of $31,000 a year, including hospitalization and incarceration, while they could be provided with housing for about $10,000 a year.

The other two counties covered in the Point in Time Count, Orange and Seminole, have continued to focus their efforts on providing housing for the chronically homeless. Osceola leaders would be smarter to stick with that strategy. Their taxpayers would be better off, too.

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