Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Family Promise of Sarasota restructures to meet homeless needs:

This article was published in Sarasota Magazine and was written by Kim Cartlidge

Criminal and family law attorney Marcia Lockwood had her doubts this week as she prepared for a volunteer open house. Who would show? Would there be enough interest in the organization she’d put her heart into over the summer to sustain its volunteer-driven, hands-on mission?
Four months ago, Family Promise of Sarasota voted to suspend operations. Donations were down, and the interdenominational program to help homeless families get back on their feet needed to restructure. It was a difficult decision that involved letting go of the staff, followed by a long summer of frank discussions among the board and coordinators who represent the 12 congregations that participate in the program.
Lockwood, who is president of Family Promise, put out an invitation for volunteers to serve on the finance, fund-raising, board development and public relations committees. Fifteen minutes before the open house was to begin, more than 20 people were lined up outside her office.
This October, Family Promise plans to accept another family into its newly restructured program. A grand opening of a new day center is slated for November, although the organization is still seeking an appropriate, low-cost, downtown space in Sarasota where families can seek jobs and get counseling services.

That’s the very good news.
The bad news is that family homelessness, which had begun to decline, is on the rise again. As the Washington Post reported this month, joblessness—not addiction or mental health issues or other behaviors often associated with chronic homelessness—is often the root cause. Single mothers who once had steady jobs and two-income families who were earning modest-to-middle-class incomes, but not saving, have been showing up at homeless shelters across the country.
Family Promise could not have engineered its own recovery at a better time. The organization serves those families by offering shelter within its network of churches and synagogues, meals prepared by congregation members and intensive job counseling and life coaching for 90 days. Its volunteers donate thousands of dollars of in-kind services based on each family’s needs—from dental work to auto repairs to computers for school-aged children.
But what drew Lockwood to the organization was its human touch. As each family goes through the program, dozens of members of the community, all from different religions, offer face-to-face support and encouragement to a family in need. That human contact enables parents and children to learn to trust, to accept help and to interact with people from diverse backgrounds.
It’s all based on a national model that was established 20 years ago as Interfaith Hospitality Networks in New Jersey. Today, Family Promise has more than 140 community affiliates nationwide. In Sarasota, each congregation that participates will house, feed, and converge upon a family in crisis any number of kindnesses for one week several times a year. Volunteers say they get attached, and follow the families even after they leave the program.
It’s a grassroots solution to homelessness that creates a safety net, and a community, for one family at a time. Family Promise of Sarasota can be reached at (941) 952-1800.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


People browse for services at the Homeless Stand Down and Health Fair.

Today, members of the homeless community in Tampa received services, toiletries, clothing, and basic health care at the Hyde Park United Methodist Church.

The fair is co-sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County.

Patrick Conway currently resides in the Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans, or DCHV, in Tampa. He says it’s a great alternative to living on the streets.

The DCHV where Conway resides has a capacity of 35 men and women who are eligible under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But according to their medical administration specialist Sharon Tapia, there are only 19 clients there now because some recently found employment and moved on.

Information about the DCHV is just one service featured at the annual “Homeless Stand Down and Health Fair.” Last year it served 125 homeless people including 75 homeless veterans. Wendy Hellickson is a social worker with the Health Care for Homeless Veterans program at the Tampa VA center.

Americorps Vista summer associate Adriane Wilson helped organize the health fair.

Diane DeJesus is a registered nurse who works for the VA clinic in New Port Richey. She took blood pressure of some of the homeless visitors to the health fair. Earnest Taylor says the VA normally takes care of his health needs. He served in Army in the 1980s and has a service-connected knee injury.

People receiving help on Friday - including Sherry White, a Mr. Ramos, and David Williams - gave a range of opinions about the health fair.

The Tampa Bay WorkForce Alliance gave people advice on jobs. Al Hilsman is their disabled veterans outreach representative.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Homeless Veterans Survey

At our last Continuum of Care meeting, Carrie Meo-Omens, the new Homeless Program Coordinator for Bay Pines VA Healthcare System spoke about the many programs offered to homeless and at-risk veterans. Carrie is currently surveying agencies that serve homeless homeless veterans regarding available programs, services and unmet needs. For further information on how to participate in the survey, please contact:

Carrie E. Meo-Omens, LCSW
Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
10000 Bay Pines Blvd.
Domiciliary, Mail Code 18
Bay Pines, FL 33744

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