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Our Achievements, Looking Ahead
Lee County Homeless Coalition, Inc.
Annual Report July 1, 2015 - June 30, 2016
The Lee County Homeless Coalition, Inc. was incorporated on December 4, 2008 as a private, not-for-profit Florida corporation under the provisions of Chapter 617 of the Florida Statutes. The function of the Coalition was established pursuant to Florida Statute 420.623 to plan, network, coordinate, and monitor the delivery of services to the homeless. The Coalition had been operating under the umbrella of the Department of Hu-man Services since October 2004. On September 1, 2009 the Lee County Homeless Coalition officially sepa-rated from the Department of Human Services as an independent agency. The mission of the Coalition is to advocate, educate, and promote awareness of issues and obstacles facing homeless individuals in Lee County through community collaboration, planning and implementing solutions.
The coalition has 60 paid members including not-for-profit agencies, businesses, faith-based organizations, advocates, and people who are currently or have been homeless. The general Coalition meets monthly as well does the three task forces which focus on community awareness and education, prevention, and de-mographics. The coalition participates in many community meetings which have shared goals of ending homelessness. We are active in the Continuum of Care governance meetings, Triage governing meetings, Community Blue Print and Zero: 2016 to name a few.
The Coalition is involved in a variety of activities and media events designed to raise public awareness on homeless issues. Some projects and events included:
Continuum of Care (CoC) Governance and Ranking Committee
The purpose of the local continuum of care is to help communities envision, plan, and implement coordinat-ed, long-term solutions to address homelessness. The continuum of care planning effort should be an ongo-ing process and address all subpopulations of the homeless. Participation of all interested individuals and or-ganizations is encouraged, including those who are or have been homeless.
The passage of the HEARTH Act in 2009 changed how programs and funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) work to help the homeless. One of the new requirements in the HEARTH Act is the formation of a Governing Board for each local Continuum of Care (CoC). This board must be made up of a cross section of nonprofit providers, governmental agencies, advocates, and other organiza-tions that in some way help the homeless in Lee County. The Homeless Coalition is a part of this Governing Board.
The Board has the ability to assign itself tasks, but in general, responsibilities include adopting a process for future Board members, approving policies and procedures for the Lee County CoC, working on goals, objec-tives, and performance measurements for the CoC, and providing semi-annual reports to the general mem-bership of the CoC. Our CoC is expected to address homelessness through a coordinated community-based process of identifying the needs and building a system of housing and services that addresses those needs. Ranking of projects needs to be done by a committee that understands the CoC but does not compete for any of the funding. Therefore, the Homeless Coalition Board of Directors acts as the ranking committee for our CoC projects.
Awareness Campaign, on-going
The Coalition’s mission is to advocate, educate, and promote awareness so one of our objectives is an Aware-ness Campaign. More people need to have an appreciation for the depth of the issue before they can decide how they might be able to help our cause. Thanks to WINK and NBC-2, our public service announcement (PSA) regarding homeless Veterans was aired 90 times during the month of October. All three of our PSAs are posted on our website. The PSAs will continue to air on local television networks whenever funding is availa-ble. We continue to be active in providing presentations to the public whether it be at a university, civic or-ganization or local church. We have also encouraged the community to participate in our on-going “Home Plate” Campaign.
The Home Plate initiative exposes the plight of people who are homeless. The public was invited to partici-pate by picking up a complimentary Home Plate Kit to host a meal as a catalyst for an awareness and discus-sion event in their homes with a handful of invited guests. The kit consists of a Coalition branded tote bag containing 10 branded meal plates and an activity sheet to help get the discussion going. Additionally, a brief video that brings to light poignant information and little known facts concerning homelessness was provided.
Home Plate kits were distributed at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Hunger Banquet and their Homeless Con-ference. The kits were also a big hit at the Southwest Florida Sustainability Summit. The Coalition appreciates the opportunity to be a partner at these events.
Zero: 2016 is a movement of communities working to end veteran and chronic homelessness by the end of
2016. Coordinated by Community Solutions, the national effort supports participants in optimizing local re-
sources, tracking progress against monthly housing goals, and accelerating the spread of proven strategies.
Lee County was selected to participate in this initiative. The decision to apply was made jointly by our Hous-
ing Authority, Veterans Affairs, Lee County Department of Human Services, and the Lee County Homeless
As a part of this initiative, the Homeless Coalition along with Lee County Department of Human Services,
hosted an onsite Action Camp facilitated by Community Solutions’ Zero: 2016. The Action Camp provided
key leaders and service providers from our community with the tools and information necessary to zero in on
this goal of ending veteran and chronic homelessness and identify ways that have been proven to be effec-
tive in serving people who are homeless.
The two-day Action Camp was held on Thursday, August 6, and Friday, August 7. Then our community really
got to work! Ensuring every person has a safe, stable place to call home takes teamwork and dedication at
every level. Efforts to end Veteran homelessness included a variety of key strategies. Most notably, the crea-
tion of a master list that is provided to all partner agencies that use a coordinated case management process
to identify permanent housing options for individuals. Partners supply updated information on a bi-monthly
basis. Individuals are prioritized based on vulnerability and matched with appropriate and available housing
and resource options.
Lee County was able to provide housing for two hundred seventy seven Veterans in 2015. With actionable,
person-specific data, updated during the Point-in-Time Count (PIT), local agencies were able to connect peo-
ple to appropriate housing options and available subsidies quickly, housing more people and ensuring that
resources are being used as effectively as possible. The Lee County Continuum of Care is working to ensure
that homelessness among Veterans will be rare, brief and non-recurring. We will continue to use these strat-
egies to tackle the next goal, ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016.
The Lee County Homeless Coalition 2015 Client Identification Grant
The Coalition works with individuals and agencies to identify potential gaps within our local continuum of homeless care. One of those gaps involves assisting persons who are homeless obtain birth certificates, driv-er’s licenses, and/or state ID’s. Florida Statutes now provide an exemption for homeless individuals to obtain state identification cards. However, there can still be a need for incidental costs to obtain supporting docu-mentation or services fees to obtain the state Identification. Without proper identification an individual is not able to obtain employment or receive financial assistance and may be subject to arrest. By providing funding to assist with obtaining birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and/or state IDs, we hope to enable the individual to become self-sufficient. This is the third year the Coalition has provided funding to our member agencies for this purpose. All Soul’s Episcopal Church and Community Cooperative, Inc. received $1,000 each to assist clients with identification. The Coalition was pleased to be able to offer this grant to our members and assist those who needed help.
11th Annual Dinner and Silent Auction, November 9, 2015
The Lee County Homeless Coalition raised more than $27,000 during the organization’s 1950’s Sock Hop-themed eleventh annual dinner and silent auction held at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Myers. The event had 5 Gold Sponsors, 8 Silver Sponsors and 13 Bronze Sponsors. Approximately 200 guests attended and bid on 75 donated auction items. The funds raised help the Lee County Homeless Coalition and its partners to continue their mission to end homelessness in Lee County.
Hosted by master of ceremonies Ray C. “Skip” Mitchell of Schooner Bay Realty, the event featured special guest speaker David Essel, a nationally recognized author, talk show host, and motivational speaker. Music was performed by Motown Magic.
In addition, a portion of the proceeds from the dinner were donated to the Bob Janes Triage Center.
This year’s Dean Blietz Annual Memorial Award for outstanding com-
munity service was presented to Joan Yerian. Joan has provided 19
years of devoted service to the All Souls Episcopal Church Outreach
program. She has helped countless individuals and goes above and
beyond what is expected of her. Congratulations Joan!
The Coalition appreciates the community coming together and sup-
porting our efforts to end homelessness in Lee County. Many thanks to all of you for your support and contri-
Dinner and auction check-in crew. 2015 Dinner and Auction
2015 Dean Blietz Nominees
In October the Coalition began a series of evening Networking meetings called the Good Meeting. This was an opportunity to bring our members together in a relaxed environment to build stronger relationships with each other. The meetings were held at Square 1 restaurant and our guest speakers led discussions through casual table talk. The informal meeting proved to be both relaxing and informative.
Homeless Challenge, November 14, 2015
The Lee County Board of County Commissioners officially proclaimed the month of November as “Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Month", a time designated to educate the public and bring awareness to the needs of the homeless. Each year, the Coalition hosts a homeless challenge in mid-November to correspond with Hunger and Homeless Awareness Month. The Lee County Homeless Coalition sponsored several events during November to engage the community. This year’s Homeless Challenge had a different take and did not require participants to spend the night on the streets. The Challenge was titled “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” and took place on November 14.
Those participating in a “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” became familiar with the social services network and methods of everyday survival. They joined together for a meal and walked several miles to visit various homeless provider agencies and shelters. The day’s agenda included discussions with law enforcement, ER staff, and some of our partner agencies. The goal was to have participants come away with a better under-standing of the scope of the problem, and of how the system currently deals with the hardships of homeless-ness. The activity was designed to educate and promote awareness.
For those unable to attend a “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes”, there were many other activities to take the homeless challenge and participate during National Homeless Awareness Month. Recommendations includ-ed: Collecting or donating non-perishable food or clothing, Volunteering professional services to provide aid to the homeless, Asking your employer or school to host or sponsor a fundraising event, Donating funds to a non-profit shelter, food pantry or “FPL’s Care to Share” program, and participating in our Home Plate Aware-ness Campaign.
Time Out of Mind, December 1, 2015
The Coalition partnered with Community Cooperative, Alliance of the Arts, and Next Level Church to show a featured screening of “Time Out of Mind” starring Richard Gere. The event was open to the public. Richard Gere portrays an increasingly desperate man with nowhere to turn, who finds himself adrift and homeless in the streets of New York City. The viewing included a Q&A session afterward. The film provided a window into struggles of surviving life on the streets, and generated an active discussion on homelessness by those view-ing the movie.
19th Annual Candlelight Vigil, December 21, 2015
The community came together on the steps of the Old Courthouse to me-morialize 18 homeless individuals who died during the year while living on the streets or in a homeless shelter in Lee County with the lighting of can-dles. The Candlelight Vigil included opening remarks by Janet Bartos, Execu-tive Director, and William Rodriguez, Coalition Board Chair. The opening prayer was presented by Neil Volz. Taps was performed by Harvey Charter, Commander, Victor Paul Tuchman Post 400 Jewish War Veterans. Music was performed by the Housing Authority of the City of Fort Myers Youth Choir, and choir director, Darlene Mitchell. This event brings attention to the tragedy of homelessness and educates communities that the lack of affordable housing, shelter, living wages, and accessible health care is a problem that must be addressed.
Census Blitz (Point in Time Count), January 23, 2016
Once per year the Coalition, with the help of many volunteers, conducts a Point in Time (PIT) census to count the homeless and provide data to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The PIT count is also used to gather information that allows local service providers to target services to meet the spe-cific needs of the homeless in our communities.
The PIT count, which asked people where they slept the night of January 23, 2016, included both sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and families. The PIT count was able to document 439 homeless per-sons, of which 90 were considered to be chronically homeless. HUD defines chronic homelessness as “an un-accompanied adult homeless individual with a disabling condition who has either continuously been home-less for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years, where the combined occasions total a length of time of at least 12 months.” Among the 439 persons surveyed, 44 per-cent reported having a disabling condition. Also among the 439 were 41 families with 74 children. Veterans made up for 4 percent of those surveyed. Data obtained through the Lee County Homeless Management In-formation System (HMIS) and PIT count found that during the course of the year, there are an estimated 2,308 homeless individuals within Lee County.
The Lee County Homeless Coalition would like to extend a special thank you to the volunteers that assisted with this year’s PIT count.
Homeless Service Day and Veterans Stand Down, January 23, 2016
Stand Down is a military term describing soldiers taking care of other soldiers in a safe, secure place. The goal of this event is to provide services which may assist in breaking the cycle of homelessness and encourage hope, vision, and health. Once again, this years event was held at the City of Palms Park in Fort Myers. We served 416 people at the Stand Down. Eighteen were Veterans. We also had approximately 350 volunteers participating in the event. There were over 40 agencies and community groups providing services. Local pro-viders assisted with services such as clothing, mental health referrals, substance abuse referrals, immuniza-tions and health screenings, employment, housing services, Veterans benefits, Social Security, spiritual coun-seling, haircuts, and transportation. Participants received back packs, resource books, hygiene kits, bus pass-es, tarps, blankets, flash lights, food bags, and army surplus items. Hot meals were also provided. Participants were offered flu, pneumonia, and tetanus shots. Disc-jockey Domingo Valladres provided entertainment. All participants were asked to complete a survey for the Annual Census Blitz. The success of this event was due to the wonderful collaboration of agencies and volunteers who came together to help the community.
Homeless Service Day and Veterans Stand Down, January 2016
Summer Blessing Bags
On May 5, the Community Awareness & Education Task Force assembled approximately 100 hygiene bags that included specific items for summer weather elements such as sunscreen, insect repellent, tarps and chap stick. Donations were provided by Pine Lakes Community, Florida Southwestern University and pri-vate donors. Each bag also contained a bus pass and resource guide. Outreach workers distributed the bags to those living on the streets of Lee County. Following this outreach effort, we received donations of 56 blessing bags from Three Oaks Middle School. These were also distributed to the community.
Drive Out Homelessness Golf Tournament
The Lee County Homeless Coalition’s 7th Annual Charity Golf Tournament “Drive Out Homelessness” was hosted by Florida State Representatives Matt Caldwell, Dane Eagle, and Ray Rodrigues. The event took place at Colonial Golf & Country Club on June 25, 2016. The tournament featured several contests for prizes and was followed with an awards luncheon. Sponsorships were available for those who wanted to advertise their company and support the Homeless Coalition in achieving our goals this year.
Twenty-two sponsors participated in the event and there were eighty four players. Scanlon Auto and Premier Golf each sponsored a Hole-In-One contest. The event raised $30,000. We are grateful to all the businesses and individuals that donated to our event. Not only did we have a fun day but we promoted awareness of the needs for those who are hungry and homeless in our community.
Advocacy and Education
The Lee County Homeless Coalition was able to participate in 75 activities that promoted awareness and edu-cation of homeless needs in our area. We continued with our Awareness Campaign which included Public Service Announcements that aired on local television during late September and the entire month of Octo-ber.
The Lee County Pocket Guide to Emergency Assistance (Green Book) was updated several times and printed twice this year. The booklet is provided to those who are in need of services. In order to save cost on printing, the Coalition designed a “Homeless Survival Guide” which is a one page document that lists many of the agencies that provide service to those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. It is a smaller version of the Green Book. It is placed on the website and is available to be copied.
The Coalition provides referral information and helps those in need make connections that could help them avoid homelessness. This year the Coalition was able to assist 616 individuals by referring them to services.
Approximately 950 bus passes were provided to the community. First, during the Homeless Service Day and Stand Down, and afterwards to our member agencies to assist their clients needing transportation for em-ployment or obtaining social services.
The Coalition advocated for homeless needs during the 2016 Legislative Session. We participated at the Lee County Legislative Delegation Meeting. Being on the agenda allowed us to share our priorities that work to-ward ending homelessness and request increase support for our Continuum of Care. We kept abreast of the issues and sent out action alerts when necessary. We participated in weekly conference calls with Adams St. Advocates, a governmental and business development consulting firm that represents the Florida Coalition for the Homelessness. They assist us in establishing our priorities and advocating for them. Phone calls and letters were sent to our Legislatures in support of homeless funding and services.
Our efforts paid off and both the Coalition Staffing grant and the Challenge Grant received an increase in ap-propriations. The Coalition Staffing Grant was funded at $3 million for the 27 Continuums of Care. The coali-tion staffing funds were appropriated with the intent that they be used to contract with homeless coalitions to fund operating or staff costs for the coalitions to carry out coalition duties as outlined in 420.623.F.S. The Challenge Grant received $5.2 million in appropriations; of that $5,000,000 is allocated to the local homeless Continuums of Care to meet emergency needs of the homeless and at risk individuals and families, and $200,000 is allocated to training and technical assistance provided to CoCs to support their efforts to imple-ment best practices. Challenge Grants provide for innovative local solutions to end homelessness and bridge the gap by ensuring that emergency shelter, meals, food, clothing, and other critical local needs are ad-dressed to serve the most vulnerable population in each Continuum of Care throughout the State. This is a competitive grant and our CoC does need to apply for the funding.
The Lee County Homeless Coalition is funded in part through contracts from Lee County Department of Hu-man Services and the State of Florida Department of Children and Families. The Coalition also receives pri-vate donations as well as those received through fundraising and membership dues. Over 500 volunteers as-sisted the Coalition this year. If you are interested in our financial reports, we are required to submit to an audit each year. The audit can be found on our website.
The Coalition appreciates the community coming together and supporting our efforts to end homelessness in Lee County. We could not do what we do without our volunteers! Many thanks to all of our volunteers for their support and contributions.
In memory of Roseann Cooney-Pullicino
Lee County Homeless Coalition Board Member
WE LOVE OUR
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