Defenders to spend $ 3 million on camping, shelters

The Homeless Advocates Team tasked with spending nearly $ 3 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars to tackle the critical issue of homelessness in Pensacola has provided a comprehensive roadmap on how they will tackle the problem.

Homelessness in the city has been highlighted in the past year as the pandemic has exacerbated poor living conditions, a large encampment under Interstate 110 has sparked complaints and concerns, and the task force on Reducing Homelessness in Northwest Florida met to take stock of the population and available resources. .

City council in July said $ 3 million in ARPA funds would likely go to the task force to fund their solutions, but they were to provide details on how the money would be spent and how it would help the problem. The task force presented an outline of its plan on Monday, and city council will vote on Thursday whether or not to approve the request for $ 2.57 million in funding to begin work.

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A rendering of what the proposed Pallet Shelter Village would look like for homeless women and children.

Pensacola City Neighborhood Administrator Lawrence Powell was involved in the task force and the development of the plan, including working with outside consultant Robert Marbut to examine the city’s homelessness, and said Monday that this marked an important step forward.

“This is the result of eight very intense and deliberate months of collaboration, strategy and research.… Today for me is monumental because I think it’s going to give us real solutions,” said Powell.

Open Doors Northwest Florida executive director John Johnson – who leads the task force with Pathways for Change CEO Connie Bookman – said on Monday the task force was developing ID cards for homeless people that can be scanned by local providers to see what resources have been provided to that person. .

They will partner with the city to allocate 35 of the city’s emergency housing vouchers to the homeless and increase the number of homeless people at any given time to serve as an ongoing measure of the success of initiatives to get people out of the city. the street. .

Projects described in the working group plan documents:

Pallet Village – $ 243,019

Almost $ 250,000 would go towards building a six-unit pallet shelter village for women and children in need of a safe place to stay. The idea is to take women and children out of dangerous living situations, out of vehicles, tents and woods to stay in the village, which will be fitted with tiny, house-style air-conditioned pallet units.

The homeless camp under I-110 in downtown Pensacola is pictured on Tuesday.  Pensacola city council will vote Thursday on a plan by homeless advocates to spend $ 2.57 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to tackle the homeless crisis in the community.

The shelters would be painted by local artists so that they are colorful and have words of encouragement, and a full-time staff member will help coordinate resources such as practical skills classes, certifications from the labor, transport and employment. Residents are expected to meet a series of guidelines that have not yet been consolidated, but would likely include the need to be currently homeless, be prepared to participate in the upkeep of the village, and pay a monthly service charge. of $ 30, for example.

The funding allocated would go to materials, construction, landscaping, security cameras and personnel for two years.

5 acre campsite and women’s emergency shelter – $ 668,249

Re-Entry Alliance of Pensacola wants to use $ 668,000 to both extend funding for its newly opened women’s and children’s shelter and to start a 5-acre campground for the homeless population.

REAP has traditionally served former incarcerated people returning to society, but throughout the pandemic it has broadened its reach in response to the critical need of the homeless, according to its proposal documents.

On Tuesday, Kevin Wilson sets up a tarp outside his tent in the homeless camp under I-110 in downtown Pensacola.  Pensacola city council will vote Thursday on a plan by homeless advocates to spend $ 2.57 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to tackle the homeless crisis in the community.

The 5-acre campsite, which costs $ 150,370 per year, would include concrete or treated wood tents, a bathroom and shower, a laundry room, a mailbox, a charging area for electrical appliances and a emergency call station. It would have a paid manager and volunteers, in addition to social workers who would manage the cases.

The 52-bed REAP Lodges emergency shelter opened in July with funding from the CARES Act, but that funding will only last until March 2022. It initially housed men, but REAP officials have pivoted to serving women and children this month due to demand.

Answer to need :The Salvation Army Lodges are organized to accommodate homeless women and children, rather than men

With the remaining portion of the ARPA allowance, REAP would fund a year of rent and utilities, food, administration, and staff to include a program manager and social workers who would work with interns entering the field.

Waterfront Rescue Mission Recovery Center – $ 400,000

With $ 400,000, Waterfront Rescue Mission would provide 10 medical respite beds to members of the homeless population who need a place to recover from an operation or illness after being released from a local hospital .

“It would also address issues such as clogged hospital emergency rooms, reducing unnecessary and costly ambulance services, initiating early clinical interventions due to ongoing monitoring or engaging the patient. staff, and potentially avoid relapses or negative results after hospitalization, ”says Waterfront’s proposal.

Willy Watts charges his cell phone at the homeless camp under I-110 in downtown Pensacola on Tuesday.  Pensacola city council will vote Thursday on a plan by homeless advocates to spend $ 2.57 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to tackle the homeless crisis in the community.

The unit would serve between eight and 10 residents at a time, with residents entering and leaving depending on their illness, but probably not staying beyond a few weeks.

A licensed mental health worker would also have an office on the Waterfront campus to see clients and address short-term or acute mental health issues. Waterfront’s proposal says mental health needs are “desperate” at the site, and as a result law enforcement and ambulances are often called in to keep others safe, which officials say could. be mitigated with an on-site mental health worker.

The funding of $ 400,000 would maintain these programs for three years.

Lakeview Mobile Response Team – $ 500,000

A six-person team – comprising a psychiatric provider, two case managers, a nurse, a peer specialist and a counselor – would work to engage around 200 people per month in the city and county homeless settlements. to connect them with resources and provide mental health. and assessment of substance use disorders.

Canopy of Hope Refuge – $ 262,300

Canopy of Hope is working on opening a new residential facility with plans to provide support to 84 women in its first year. The funding proposal would include a social worker / supervisor with three interns and a stay-at-home mom for two years.

Reproduction of the Lotus campaign – $ 425,000

The idea behind the Charlotte, NC-based Lotus Campaign is to engage private for-profit real estate and investment communities in finding affordable housing solutions. Lotus Campaign experts told CivicCon in July how in Charlotte they worked with nonprofits, landlords and donors to make it easier to house more than 280 people at a lower annual cost. at $ 800 per person.

On Tuesday, Kevin Wilson sets up a tarp outside his tent in the homeless camp under I-110 in downtown Pensacola.  Pensacola city council will vote Thursday on a plan by homeless advocates to spend $ 2.57 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to tackle the homeless crisis in the community.

In bringing the model to Pensacola, the task force plans to work with homeowners and nonprofits to provide funding that will help mitigate homeowner risk in at-risk housing or homeless people. The goal for the next step is to invest in capital that the task force can leverage into affordable housing opportunities for the homeless and to develop educational resources for the private and public sectors that will help demystify the myths about the homeless.

Case Management and Counseling – $ 500,000

At a cost of $ 50,000 for each site for two years, one MSW student and three social work students will be located at each of the following sites, Alfred Washburn Center, Bright Bridge Ministries, Children’s Home Society, HER Foundation and Family Promise.

There is about $ 400,000 left in the ARPA allocation which was not included in the plan, but which will likely be allocated at a different time, Bookman said.

City council will vote on ARPA’s funding request at its Thursday night meeting.

Emma Kennedy can be reached at [email protected] or 850-480-6979.


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