Friday, October 29, 2004

Homeless Update

Citizen's Voice of the Day

"I don't think anyone ever says, 'when I grow up I want to be homeless.' Instead of complaining, why don't you go out and buy them a hot lunch? All it takes is one person to make a difference. I did it and he was so thankful. Quit complaining and be thankful for everything you have. When you leave this world what will you have contributed?"

A while back, I wrote about the Safe Zone, the homeless shelter that the City and County established on Stock Island in order to avoid lawsuits when moving the homeless camp that sprang up all along the beaches. It was successful in meeting that objective and, for the most part, went as expected but for one small detail. The tents, cots, and showers were an attractive alternative to the mangroves and the bridle path where most were set up. A variety of social services were provided to those who wanted to take advantage of them but most "clients" were happy for a safe place to live and to keep their belongings. In fact, it was so comfortable there for many, that the shelter was soon filled to capacity, and residents mostly stayed there all the time, making occasional forays out for food, entertainment and the like.

After about a month of this, those operating the shelter realized that some modifications to operation would be required, and turned to an organization with a track record for helping homeless to find ways out of their situation. Enter the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League, operated by Rev. Steve Braddock. SHAL is a non-profit able to obtain and spend federal, state, county and city money, and private grants, to provide a range of services to people who are or might become homeless. Once SHAL assumed responsibility for the shelter, they revised the rules to stipulate that residents would have to leave the shelter in the morning and be permitted to return in the evening, and that they must be actively seeking a way out of their homelessness while using the shelter.

Apart from an occasional report, the homeless "situation" in Key West seems to have quieted down. There is no more tent city at the beaches. With cold weather arriving in the north, the possibility of another influx certainly exists.

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