SHAL believes in a holistic approach to homeless services. We are fully engaged in addressing the homeless problem in our community on any and all levels required. “One Human Family” doesn’t just need to warehouse and hide homeless persons, but to work toward actually solving our homeless problem. We are committed to improving the quality of life for all members of our community and work to solve the homeless problem. We interact with each homeless person, one at a time, sheltered and unsheltered, to promote and enhance his or her ability to escape homelessness, because no one wants to be homeless. Everyone wants to be self-sufficient and live in his or her own space.
We don’t believe that a person can escape homelessness if they are tired, so we have improved the quality, cleanliness and security of KOTS to allow for a good night’s rest, while continuing to stay within budget, and in fact reduce the City’s allocation to SHAL to operate KOTS. The Shelter is now quiet, safe and secure, with bag checks to keep out alcohol, drugs and weapons. The facility is scrupulously cleaned every day with gallons of bleach & cleansers and regularly treated with scabicide. Every sheet, towel & blanket used is sanitized every single day. The restrooms are well maintained and our staff is trained and monitored to be supportive to the persons experiencing homelessness so they can help themselves to find permanent housing, here or elsewhere. A rested person has a better chance of escaping homelessness.
We don’t believe that a person can escape homelessness if they are sick, so we have contracted with the Visiting Nurse Association to provide weekly triage and wound care. Florida Health Department in Monroe County nurses continue to come monthly to provide vaccinations and testing. We regularly hold AA meetings at the Shelter. And we have contracted with the Rural Health Network of Monroe County to see our clients and provide diagnostic, testing and prescriptions to help our ill clients return to full heath, because a healthy person has a better chance of escaping homelessness.
We don’t believe that a person can escape homelessness if they are hungry, so we have begun two food programs, breakfast in-house and dinner in association with St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen. Churches, caterers, restaurants and other community organizations have also generously provided food for clients. SHAL staff works hard to support the nutrition of our clients so that they can help themselves escape homelessness. Because a person with some food in their belly has a better chance of helping themselves escape homelessness.
We don’t believe that a person can escape homelessness if they have no income, so we have programs in employment with Career Source South Florida and local businesses to find jobs for our clients. We are SOAR trained to very quickly help our clients get their eligible social security benefits and other government support, their birth certificates and other documents that are needed to find a job, get their pension or disability payments, and overcome many other barriers that a homeless person might have that stop them from escaping homelessness. We hold Financial Education classes to help clients improve their money management. Our case managers work remarkably hard to identify and address each homeless person’s particular issue and give them a “hand up” toward permanent housing and self-sufficiency. We also discuss the possibility of relocating back to the mainland to family, friends and employment, if that is a person’s best option. SHAL has relocated over 350 homeless persons since 2014. A person has a better chance of escaping homeless if they have income and manage it thoughtfully.
We believe that a person can permanently escape homelessness better if they are permanently housed in a traditional, non-institutional setting. We have piloted a HUD-best practices Housing First program, finding housing for clients who could become self-sufficient if they had their own personal space to live in. Part of this program was subsidized, but much of it is not. We understand that housing is actually healthcare, and once a homeless person is again housed (and nearly all were recently), other detriments to self-sufficiency often largely fall away. A permanently housed person has a better chance of remaining out of homelessness.
Over the past year, we have provided thousands of services to almost 1,500 homeless persons, including over 8,600 individual services through SHAL Outreach. All this while being able to decrease the request for the City’s support for 2017.