Overview of Second Start Second Start Inc. provides housing, food and clothing to the homeless population of West Palm Beach, Florida, where 73% of the state's extremely low income renters are currently without housing (Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County 2018). Palm Beach County had the third highest prevalence in chronic homelessness in Florida in 2016 (National Homelessness Information Project). Poverty and a lack of affordable housing are among the key causes. According to the Census Bureau, 19% of the population in West Palm Beach lived below the poverty line, which was higher than the national average in 2016. Further, a report released just a few weeks ago by the United Nation... read more Overview of Second Start Second Start Inc. provides housing, food and clothing to the homeless population of West Palm Beach, Florida, where 73% of the state's extremely low income renters are currently without housing (Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County 2018). Palm Beach County had the third highest prevalence in chronic homelessness in Florida in 2016 (National Homelessness Information Project). Poverty and a lack of affordable housing are among the key causes. According to the Census Bureau, 19% of the population in West Palm Beach lived below the poverty line, which was higher than the national average in 2016. Further, a report released just a few weeks ago by the United Nations highlighted that poverty on the national level is intensifying under the current administration, which is certain to be felt in West Palm Beach. A summit meeting including government officials, lenders and builders in 2017 also called for the need to alleviate the affordable housing crisis in West Palm Beach, in order to retain the area's cultural and economic vitality. And according to the associate director of the Metropolitan Center at Florida International University, 80% of renters in the county cannot afford the median gross rent of $1,900 (Palm Beach Post). Further, despite the county's significant improvement in housing the chronically homeless in 2018, as compared to the previous year, zoning laws that have been pushing organizations that serve the homeless out of operation, in addition to cuts in government funding on the national and local levels, threaten that hard-won progress. These are among the reasons Second Start is a key player in the county's 10-year plan to end homelessness, and one of the few organizations left that can address the need for housing extremely low-income renters. By providing the homeless population with housing, which is a key component of health, Second Start is aligned with the Cathleen McFarlane Foundation's mission: "To make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate, especially those suffering from homelessness and addition" "for the care and benefit of homeless people and homeless animals as well as support of addiction rehabilitation facilities which also serve individuals who are unable to pay for the services rendered by these facilities". With the mutual vision of improving the health of communities in Palm Beach County, Second Start's target population thus far has been comprised of homeless males, the disabled and the elderly. Yet, its largest demographic has been veterans, reflecting the 73% increase in veteran homelessness in Palm Beach County in 2018 (Homeless Coalition PBC). A large majority of the male veteran population Second Start serves is also struggling with mental and cognitive disabilities, and some suffer from PSTD, depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. Mental illness has been found to be one of the most common causes behind homelessness. To address the mental health challenges associated with homelessness, Second Start partners with area hospitals and organizations, such as the Jerome Golden Agency for Mental Disabilities, and Henderson Mental Health, in both receiving and referring clients to facilitate healthcare that is necessary for healing and re-integration into society. Second Start functions as a holistic form of supported housing that helps clients obtain healthcare and medical insurance, navigate government aid programs and secure employment. Homeless populations struggling with mental illness have a greater chance of recovering and gaining residential stability through supported housing programs that provide services beyond housing (National Coalition for the Homeless). As a leader in the holistic approach, Second Start supports housing and the creation of actual home environments, offering levels of comfort, relief and support. One of its recent success stories involved a blind gentleman who was able to regain eyesight in one eye. His moving remarks when he was first able to see the color of the Executive Director's dress serve as an example of the driving force behind the organization's future goals and commitment. The organization now seeks to further decrease the homeless population in West Palm Beach by opening two more facilities to also serve families, women and children. Families represent 21% of the homeless population in West Palm Beach (Homeless Coalition Palm Beach County), and women were the largest group living in poverty in 2016 (Census Bureau). At the moment, Second Start has seven rooms that can accommodate up to 14 residents at a time. Nonetheless, the organization often finds itself having to turn people away due to space constraints and regulations that separate male residents from women and children. Second Start believes it can address this need by increasing the number of people it serves from 14 to 42 at a time. Funding from the Cathleen McFarlane Foundation will enable Second Start to stabilize its foundational service of providing housing, as it also broadens its demographic and strengthens the supportive services it provides. Second Start maintains four types of housing programs: 1. Transitional Housing: This group includes any person seeking shelter, including low income housing for individuals and families. 2. Programmatic Housing: This group covers housing for persons with mental disabilities, who are enrolled in a supported program with a case manager or support coordinator; this group also includes Veterans. 3. Emergency Shelter: This group is in the process of being established; we are working on obtaining a reserve of at least 3 beds per location from 911 calls. 4. Supportive Housing Community: This group is also in the process of being established; we are working to partner and collaborate with other organizations locally utilizing Low Income Tax Credits from the State to Florida that are set aside for "supported housing communities" for low income individuals and families. These types of housing communities are expected to be very comprehensive, complete with commercial, medical, educational, and social amenities.
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