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The latest ways to deal with homelessness in the Pompano Beach area

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By Danielle Charbonneau

As of April 1, Broward Partnership — the nonprofit that operates Broward County’s Central Homeless Assistance Center (CHAC) in Fort Lauderdale — has taken over operations of Broward County’s North Homeless Assistance Center (NHAC) at 1700 Blount Road in Pompano Beach (south of Copans Road and just east of the Florida Turnpike), replacing the two nonprofit organizations, Saint Laurence Chapel and Miami Rescue Mission, that had been jointly operating from the property for more than 15 years.

The Broward County Commission’s decision to replace Saint Laurence Chapel and Miami Rescue Mission with Broward Partnership came with much controversy, but City officials have applauded the change and have expressed excitement with Broward Partnership’s vision for the center, which was recently presented at the Old Pompano Civic Association meeting on May 6.

Both Saint Laurence and Miami Rescue Mission said the county’s decision to not renew their lease agreements at the NHAC and give them only 60 days notice to vacate the property was both shocking and abrupt. The decision has left the fate of Saint Laurence deeply precarious, hanging on the dim hope the organization can find another affordable place to operate before the end of June or face its demise.

The county also terminated its contracts to provide funding for 59 low-demand emergency overnight beds that had been provided at Saint Laurence (29 beds) and Miami Rescue Mission (30 beds). Broward Partnership will not operate any low demand emergency overnight beds — meaning an individual must be enrolled in the shelter program (a roughly 60-day program) to stay overnight.

The Broward County TaskForce Fore the Homeless — the organization responsible for assessing homeless individuals and getting them placed in the proper programs — has reported that since the disappearance of the 59 emergency overnight beds, their ability to get individuals inside overnight has dropped from a rate of about 90-92 percent, to only 58-60 percent.

“That’s 59 beds that we don’t have in our arsenal of resources anymore,” said Lorraine Wilby, CEO of TaskForce Fore Ending Homelessness. Wilby acknowledged, however, that individuals participating in a shelter program have a higher likelihood of getting out of homelessness than if they just receive what she calls a “hot and a cot” (a hot meal and an overnight bed).

Individuals who are waiting to get into programs like Broward Partnership’s, however, currently have no overnight options in Pompano Beach. Wilby said the current wait time for men to get a bed in a program in Broward County averages at about two to four days, while women wait an average of three to six weeks. There is a bigger shortage of women’s beds as compared to men’s because when the dorms and bathrooms at homeless assistance centers were built, the ratio of homeless men to women was about 80-20. Now, Wilby said, women make up more like 30-32 percent of the homeless population.

The wait list, she said, is also not linear. It is based on vulnerability. Some individuals on the wait list keep getting pushed down the list as more vulnerable individuals get the open bed spots first. She guesstimated that only about eight or nine spots a month open up, while the TaskForce sees approximately 750 unduplicated people monthly throughout Broward County.

“There’s no good scenario,” said Wilby. “There’s just not enough services.”

Frances M. Esposito, the CEO of Broward Partnership, is quick to point out that the 59 beds that were “hot and cot” beds have not been lost — they are now shelter beds for individuals in the Broward Partnership’s program, which will give an individual a much more comprehensive list of services, such as case management, workforce development, medical care and counseling.

Once Broward Partnership is fully operating, it will have a total capacity of 268 beds (222 for individuals and 46 for families). This number, she pointed out, is an increase in the number of beds available at the NHAC before Broward Partnership took over on April 1. Broward Partnership is in the process of getting up-and-running, so currently has only 146 out of 268 beds in operation. Broward Partnership will open all 268 beds as soon as all the furniture, fixtures and equipment have been installed, which Esposito said should be by the end of June.

Broward Partnership will also continue to operate the north day respite program, which does not require referrals and welcomes walk-ups. At the day respite center, individuals can take a hot shower, rest, access the clothing exchange, eat two hot meals a day (breakfast and lunch) and have access to laundry facilities. That program is open Monday through Friday between 7am and 3pm.

“We’ve seen as few as 55 people during the day and as many as 88,” said Esposito of the north day respite center.

Those 55-88 people are not enrolled in Broward Partnership’s program, so are sleeping elsewhere overnight, likely outside.

Esposito said the day respite center is a good first-point-of-contact for individuals to get to know Broward Partnership and hopefully seek an assessment and referral through the TaskForce to enter the program and receive overnight shelter.

The TaskForce has a mobile assessment facility it brings to the Blount Road facility twice a week — on Monday mornings, and Thursday afternoons. The mobile TaskForce unit also goes offsite to find homeless individuals around Broward County to assess their needs and get them referred. (If you or someone you encounter is in need of an assessment and referral, the TaskForce can be reached at 954-563-HELP).

Broward Partnership’s vision for the NHAC in Pompano Beach moving forward is based on its existing programs at the central facility. Point! Publishing recently toured Broward Partnership’s Fort Lauderdale facility to preview what Pompano Beach can expect at the NHAC.

BROWARD PARTNERSHIP’S VISION FOR THE NHAC 

At the heart of the CHAC campus is a peaceful, open-air courtyard, encircled by a two-story U-shape building at one end. On the west side of the courtyard is a colorful playground for the children who live there with their families. The CHAC has 70 spots for family members. The Pompano Beach facility will have 46.

On the back side of the CHAC courtyard is the women’s housing, and on the third side, the men’s. On the first floor one will find a computer lab and workforce development center where program participants can see boards with job openings, can participate in workshops like resume building and mock interviews, can meet with one of two staff career counselors and can apply online.

Across the courtyard is a gym, a barber shop where volunteers give haircuts and clean shaves, and a clothing store manned by volunteers that gives away business suits, manual labor uniforms and day-to-day attire to program participants. Another room is the housewares storage area where Broward Partnership keeps things like strollers, lamps, home decorations, baby diapers and a variety of other essentials to give to graduating program participants who are moving on to more permanent housing. A large cafeteria serves three meals a day.

At the entrance of CHAC is a lobby where new program candidates who have already been assessed and referred to Broward Partnership by TaskForce Fore the Homeless meet with case managers who assess their eligibility for various housing and benefit programs and get them connected to needed services. In this building there is also a medical facility, including a psychiatrist who can write prescriptions.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this building, however, is the working dental offices. In the hallway hangs hundreds of miraculous transformation pictures of program participants who received new smiles through Broward Partnership’s dentists. Each before and after is striking — each person’s once gnarly, jagged jawlines are turned into bright, shiny, white smiles, completely transforming their entire demeanor. Once unapproachable, they now appear presentable and confident.

Esposito said the organization plans, in time, to re-create all these programs at the NHAC. Most of them she said can be expected by June or July, with the exception of the dental program, which will take time to implement.

Each part of the program — from the barber shop, to the gym, cafeteria to the workforce development center, and eventually the dental program — will need volunteers. Individuals and groups will be able to volunteer at the NHAC starting approximately at the end of June. If you are interested in volunteering or scheduling an informational presentation at your school or business, please contact Ryan R. Coote, the Chief Development Officer for Broward Partnership, at 954-832-7029 or email rcoote@bphi.org.

Broward Partnership is also actively looking to form community partnerships with individuals and organizations. She has planned numerous events at homeowners associations, businesses and civic groups to share Broward Partnership’s vision.

DONATIONS NEEDED

Broward Partnership is also in need of donations, which can be dropped off Monday through Sunday from 7am to 7pm at the Blount Road facility at 1700 Blount Road in Pompano Beach. The center’s most needed items right now are rollable suitcases, personal hygiene items, canned or dried food, new underwear and socks for adults and children, powdered laundry detergent, baby wipes, diapers and gently-used clothes or shoes.

HELP WANTED

Staff positions at the NHAC and Broward Partnership are also needing to be filled, including an RN position in the NHAC medical facility.

THE CONTROVERSIAL DECISION TO CHANGE OPERATORS & SAINT LAURENCE’S PLEA FOR HELP

While many have publicly applauded the county commission’s decision to change operators and have lauded Broward Partnership’s vision at the NHAC, the former operators of the NHAC, Saint Laurence Chapel and Miami Rescue Mission, have questioned the county’s actions.

Before April 1, the NHAC was jointly operated by Miami Rescue Mission (formerly known as Broward Outreach) and Saint Laurence Chapel. Miami Rescue Mission has been operating homeless services since 1922 in both Miami-Dade County and Broward County, and was asked in 1991 by Pompano Beach to help with the City’s homeless.

Saint Laurence Chapel has been serving the homeless community of Pompano Beach for 31 years. Saint Laurence began as a grassroots effort by some members of the local religious community to help schizophrenic and other mentally ill citizens who were left without care after many state mental health facilities shut down during the government’s push for deinstitutionalization in the 70s and 80s.

Both Saint Laurence and Miami Rescue Mission operated out of the NHAC for roughly 15 years. According to both Saint Laurence’s Executive Director Lorry Herdeen and Miami Rescue Mission’s president Rev. Ron Brummit, the organizations were given only 60 days notice to vacate the NHAC, leaving them little time to get affairs in order.

“I heard they [the county commission] had thought about this in September. If they had just said then, ‘Ok we’re not going to renew the lease, we’re doing this [bringing in Broward Partnership], that would have been so much kinder than just slapping us in the face with ‘You’ve got two months.’ It was pretty shocking,” Herdeen said.

Rev. Ronald Brummitt, the president of Miami Rescue Mission echoed Herdeen’s shock.

“I’m just kind of blown away by this — it’s taken us by surprise,” he said at a Broward County Commission Meeting on January 29. “We had no idea, no idea, that our contract would not be renewed. This affects the homeless that we serve, it affects almost 100 staff members, it affects 36,000 donors and supporters here in Broward County, it affects 56,000 donors and supporters in Dade county and it’s probably going to affect our ability to serve the homeless.”

Rev. Brummit also pointed out that the city did not issue a RFP (Request for Proposal) for the NHAC for this change in operations. While Broward Partnership had submitted two RFPs in previous years, there was no recent proposal made.

While Miami Rescue Mission will continue to operate their facilities in Miami and Hollywood, the future of Saint Laurence is deeply precarious. As a much smaller organization, Saint Laurence was deeply dependent on the county’s space at the NHAC and on its funding for the 29 low demand emergency overnight beds it had been operating. Herdeen said that without the space and funding, Saint Laurence may not survive. The organization’s board of directors has given Herdeen until the end of June to secure affordable space from which to operate, or the nonprofit will most likely fold.

“We are at a crossroads and in crisis as to whether we can survive this transition,” Herdeen said. “We must find a building with low or no rent. If we do not obtain a place for our ministry, it may mean the end of Saint Laurence’s 31 years of services to this very needy population.”

Herdeen also raised her concerns that Pompano Beach now has no low-demand emergency overnight beds for individuals not participating in Broward Partnership’s program, either because they are on the wait list or are “fringe cases” that don’t fit in to the program — such as mental or physical disabilities that make individuals less apt to do or stay in the program.

Saint Laurence’s staff nurse, Lonette Avery, said she has been in contact with several of Saint Laurence’s former clients who are now sleeping on the streets. One of those clients, Avery said, had just completed her schooling and was in the process of looking for a job when Saint Laurence closed. While that client still has access to the north day respite center, she sleeps on the street at night, which Avery said will definitely hinder her progress.

Herdeen said if Saint Laurence does miraculously find a space from which to operate before the end of June, she will attempt to renegotiate a new contract with the county for funding for the low-demand emergency overnight beds.

When asked why Broward County decided to replace Saint Laurence and Miami Rescue Mission and terminate funding for low-demand emergency overnight beds at a county commission meeting on January 29, Mandy Wells, deputy director of Broward County’s human services department said there were “a number of factors.”

The NHAC under the operations of Saint Laurence and Miami Rescue Mission had a history of receiving community complaints about loitering, large crowds, dirty conditions and inconsistencies between how the two operators functioned.

Miami Rescue Mission was also deeply criticized by County Commission Mayor and District Two Commissioner Mark D. Bogen for abruptly shutting down their overnight facilities last October in response to a contract dispute with the county. Miami Rescue mission reportedly shut down a total of 60 overnight beds in Hollywood and Pompano for about a week. The president of Miami Rescue Mission, Rev. Ron Brummit, said the shut-down was strictly a result of being financially strapped without an agreed contract for the overnight beds from the county.

“We’re not holding a knife to people’s throats. It’s just economics,” Brummit told the Sun Sentinel in October. “We’re putting out $100,000 cash a week. That’s for both centers … without a contract.”

County Mayor Bogen, however, publicly reamed Rev. Brummit.

“I sit here very angry,” Mayor Bogen said. “I’m disgusted how you [Rev. Brummit] contributed and ordered that the facility in Pompano keep 60 people outside one night because of a negotiating tactic with Broward County. You weren’t getting what you wanted with Broward County, so you kept nearly 60 people on the street…That’s disgusting. When you will use homeless people as a negotiating tactic…finally the county has made a great decision to put in a quality operator.”

Herdeen said Saint Laurence was told by the county the decision was made out of “convenience, not cause.”

Wells echoed this: “We decided it was much more efficient and impactful to have one service operator that would provide all services up there.”

Herdeen has asked for the community’s support in finding a space for Saint Laurence. She can be contacted at lorryh@att.net or by phone at 954-972-2958.

There are 485 more homeless individuals in Broward County this year than there were last year, according to the results of the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, which was conducted on January 23 and estimates the total number of homeless individuals and households in the county during a 24 hour period. The final numbers for the 2019 PIT count were approved by the Continuum of Care Board for submission to HUD yesterday on April 24.

The final count reveals that at the time of the 2019 survey, 2,803 individuals were homeless in Broward County. Compared to 2018, which counted 2,318 homeless individuals; and 2017, 2,450.

Of those total homeless individuals counted in the 2019 survey, 305 were children; and 855 were considered chronically homeless, which means they have experienced homelessness for at least a year, or repeatedly, while struggling with a disabling conditions such as a serious mental illness, substance use disorder or physical disability.

Additionally the report reveals that 233 veterans were homeless (230 veterans in households without children, and three in households with children).

And in the homeless youth category, 108 unaccompanied youth were homeless. And 15 of those youth were chronically homeless.

We are at a crossroads and in crisis as to whether we can survive this transition.We must find a building with low or no rent. If we do not obtain a place for our ministry, it may mean the end of Saint Laurence’s 31 years of services to this very needy population. — Saint Laurence’s Executive Director Lorry Herdeen

According to the organization’s 2017 annual report, Broward Partnership served approximately 100,000 meals in 2017. above left An individual who enters Broward Partnership’s program after being assessed and referred by Broward County’s assessment protocol immediately meets with a case manager to discuss the individual’s needs. Every individual at Broward Partnership is assigned a case manager. above right An individual gets a new smile at Broward Partnership’s dental office located in the Central Homeless Assistance Center in Fort Lauderdale. In 2017, 2,902 dental procedures were performed for homeless individuals.

For more Pompano Beach news, read Pompano! magazine or search our website. 

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